BFUHS student wins Jr. Iron Chef Competition

BELLOWS FALLS — On April 2, Joey Jacques of Bellows Falls Union High School competed in the Junior Iron Chef VT competition and took home the Mise en Place award cooking by himself. His winning dish was Portobello Katsu over a Sweet Potato Curry and Coconut Rice.

Jr. Iron Chef VT is a statewide cooking competition for middle and high school students. Teams are invited to create healthy vegetarian dishes using seasonal ingredients and to show off skills formed in after-school clubs. The program was started in 2008 and has grown extremely popular, with more than 5000 students participating over the years.

Due to a winter storm, the March competition date was postponed. Because of rescheduling, Jacques's teammate Kevin Patterson could not compete, so Jacques had to cook solo - a rarity at Jr. Iron Chef, where teams are usually three or more students.

However, cooking solo did not dampen the team's abilities. In fact, Jacques was able to win one of the three awards up for grabs at the competition.

Jacques and Patterson had put quite a bit of preparation time into the event. Both had met eight times with their coach Jake Gallogly, the nutrition assistant at BFUHS. Both students had significant experience cooking with their families at home, but both also mentioned the techniques they had learned under Gallogly's guidance.

“I 100 percent learned new techniques and vocabulary here,” Jacques said in a news release. “Julienne, mince, mise en place. Learning how to do things correctly is a big thing here.”

Gallogly remarked that “watching Joey cook was pretty awesome. I don't know if he noticed or not, but all of the judges and many of the coaches kept coming up to me and asking if he was really competing alone. They were really impressed.”

So Gallogly said he wasn't completely surprised when they announced Jacques as the winner, but the extra reward came when the captain of the judges told Gallogly, “his dish was by far the best,” and they'd pay for it in a restaurant!

Jr. Iron Chef helps build confidence in students and offers them a unique opportunity, Gallogly said.

“It is a great program. All three times that I have had the opportunity to coach a team, I feel that the kids walked away with more confidence in the kitchen. Cooking aside, I think some of the students that participate in the program aren't always involved in competitive sports, so showing up to the expo center with all the energy and the big crowd of people there has to be exciting. Everyone needs a few butterflies in their stomach once in a while.”

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