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Top teen chefs in Fairfax to duel Thursday night for best dish

Students from five Fairfax high schools will demonstrate their culinary potential Thursday evening at a competition that could land their dishes on high school lunch menus around the county.

The Feeding Academic Success Culinary Challenge, led by the healthy school meals advocacy group Real Food For Kids, will take begin at 4 p.m. Thursday at Falls Church High School. The event promotes more nutritious meal options in school cafeterias across the county. A recent survey found that Fairfax County students hate the current lunch menus.

Judges, including professional chefs from top Washington area restaurants, will taste vegetarian and vegan dishes prepared by students from Annandale, Chantilly, Edison, Falls Church and Marshall high schools.

The students’ dishes will be judged on taste, presentation and nutritional value by executive chef of the Lebanese Taverna Group Joseph Comfort, executive chef and co-owner of Indique and Indique Heights K.N. Vinod, executive chef and owner of Hollywood East Janet Yu, food writer Alexandra Greeley, Defense Health Agency director Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas Robb and Whole Foods healthy food specialist Jasmine Simon.

After an introduction to the competition by Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza and others, audience members will be invited to try the meals prepared by the student teams. The winners will be announced at 5 p.m.

“Our Feeding Academic Success Culinary Challenge is to showcase the talents and creativity of our Fairfax County Public School culinary students and to demonstrate the important role all students can play to help improve the quality and appeal of meals served in our schools,” said JoAnne Hammermaster, executive director of Real Food for Kids.

The advocacy group in the past has led efforts to ban sugary sodas from high school vending machines, eliminate “pink slime” burgers from lunch menus and helped organize the first “fresh food” bar at Marshall High School. At a White House event in February, first lady Michelle Obama mentioned a student-led effort in Fairfax supported by Real Food For Kids to promote healthier school meals.

All of the students involved in the competition will receive high-quality kitchen knives and cutlery, a tour of L’Academie de Cuisine culinary school and short apprenticeships with local chefs at restaurants including Nora, Ris, Bastille and Willow.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.

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