Young Indian-American Chefs Attend Fifth Annual Kids’ State Dinner Hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama

Indian-American whiz kids are among winners of 2016 White House recipe contest

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, July 14, 2016 – It is one of the most exciting and endearing events at the White House: the Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama celebrating winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe contest for children to promote cooking and healthy eating.

This year was special for the Diaspora: children of Indian origin headed to the White House, Thursday, in recognition of their winning recipes in the 2016 contest. Among the winners were: Shakthi Ramachandran, 8, of Indiana, for her delectable chicken tikka pita with cucumber raita; Priya Patel, 10, of Texas, for cooking a healthy and delicious Tex-Mex veg-head lasagna; and Abhijith Jenkins, 11, of Missouri, for his tropical vacation with catfish and quinoa delicacy.

13701015_660558710769953_4361323408992964842_o
First Lady Michelle Obama smiles at the gathering at the fifth annual Kids’ State Dinner

The First Lady warmly welcomed all 56 winners of the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge — aspiring young chefs who got to share a nutritious meal with her. “You guys blew us away with your creativity and your skills in the kitchen”, she told the kids. The White House recipe contest is part of her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative to keep kids healthy.

Since 2012, under this initiative, the First Lady has hosted five Kids’ State Dinners and welcomed more than 270 young people and their families to the White House, and over 6,000 recipe submissions have been reviewed. “And, of course, we ate a whole lot of good food”, she said, to cheers from the 2016 gathering. “That’s a good thing”.

The First Lady emphasized that the purpose of the event and initiative is to ensure that kids embrace healthy options over a lifetime, that they are in it for the long haul! “This is about setting kids like all of you up for a lifetime of healthy choices”, she underscored, and proceeded to make a strong case for eating healthy.

“The food that you put into your bodies can actually help you get better grades. And it can also affect your performance in sports and other activities too”, she told the school kids.

“When you give your body the best possible fuel, you have more energy, you’re stronger, you think more quickly. You just feel better in general all throughout the day, every day”, she said.

The First Lady gave the kids a lot of credit, congratulating them for winning the White House recipe contest.

Lauding that they “all are so passionate about eating healthy”, she noted, it is “because you know the difference that it can make in your lives. And with that passion – and with your winning recipes – you all are now part of a proud Kids’ State Dinner tradition. You are part of a network of extraordinary young people who are leading a movement for healthy eating all across the country”, she said.

Now in it’s fifth year, the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge received over 1,200 entries featuring wholesome, nutritious and tasty ingredients. Kids, ages 8 to 12 years, from across the country were invited to create a healthy, affordable, original and delicious lunch recipe. One winner from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five US territories, was chosen and flown to Washington with a parent or guardian for the Kids’ State Dinner.

13654274_659854527507038_1522542476220628277_n
Shakthi Ramachandran, 8, of Indiana. Recipe: Chicken Tikka Pita with Cucumber Raita. Photo credit: The White House

About her dish, Shakthi said, “My dad is from India and I like Indian food, especially chicken tikka masala”. She also likes to eat a lot of vegetables. “This recipe combines all these things and is very tasty and delicious. In the summer, most of the vegetables we eat are from our garden. The cucumber raita dressing makes it delicious”, said one of the youngest chefs.

13669052_659853790840445_6557457012152670962_n
Priya Patel, 10, of Texas. Recipe: Tex-Mex Veg-Head Lasagna.  Photo credit: The White House

Regarding her vegetable lasagna, Priya revealed, “I was first inspired to make this recipe by my Mom. She always tells us to add vegetables to everything we make and to experiment”.

All of 10 years old, Priya said, “You can substitute any veggies and fruits you like. The possibilities are endless. My Mom says not having or liking one ingredient is not an excuse to not try a recipe or to buy fast food”.

At the State Dinner, the First Lady implored kids to continue inculcating healthy habits and to help others, thereby changing lives for the better.

“I know you guys can do this”, she told the kids. “I see this every year. I see the work of kids, the magic you all do. People change because of kids. They change how they eat. They change the way they think. They change the way they see one another. You guys are so powerful and you don’t even know it”.

The First Lady’s powerful words lingered.

13710007_660607170765107_1830755069248879977_n
Maya Jacob, 10, of Oklahoma. Recipe: Okie Pride Brown Rice with Chicken and Vegetables

We met an amazing ten-year-old girl, Maya Jacob. Maya’s parents hail from the small Christian community in Pakistan; she is born and being raised here in Oklahoma. Her winning recipe, Okie Pride Brown Rice with Chicken and Vegetables, is named after her home state.

“My inspiration to cook healthy are my precious 14-year-old twin brothers who have cerebral palsy and also a severe seizure disorder”, Maya disclosed. “We found out that certain foods or even too many carbs or sugar can trigger seizures”. She thought “If we can help reduce their seizures just by what they eat, then I will definitely help prepare recipes for them. I had no idea that food played that big a part in our health. Ever since we decided to start eating healthy, we noticed a huge decrease in their seizures and a bonus is I can focus much better at school”, she said.

Maya is a soft-spoken girl with the sweetest smile, and she is a pro at interacting with the press corps. While many kids seemed exhausted after the day trip to Washington and an eventful day at the White House, Maya was raring to go. She deftly answered queries from journalists, even exchanging high fives. And it was endearing to watch kid reporters interview her, definitely a star of the press interaction!

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that kids can’t make a difference”, the First Lady told winners at the White House event. “You all have really made the difference on this issue. You guys are the leaders! In fact, when it comes to building a healthier country, we’re counting on all of you guys to lead the way. And that may sound like a big ask of you, but you guys can do this. So many of you have already stepped up in your families, in your schools, in your communities”.

13690825_659853954173762_6546078942479034695_n
Skylar McGough, 8, of Nevada. Recipe: Veggie-Packed Indian Lentils.  Photo credit: The White House

It is interesting to note that Skylar McGough, 8, of Nevada, was among the winners for her veggie-packed Indian lentils. “Our family recently became vegan”, Skylar informed. “For this recipe, we received my favorite store-bought boxed Indian lentils, and made it full of veggies. Vegan food can be healthy and full of flavor. I love this recipe served with brown rice and a Mango Lassi”, she said.

13659129_661018840723940_3083182865777152936_n
Scenes from the 2016 Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. The kids were treated to a special performance by Walt Disney World Resort’s ‘The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic’ which was inspired by India, its rich traditions and culture. They were also afforded an opportunity to meet and learn from television chef Rachael Ray (below right)

The kids were treated to a special performance by Walt Disney World Resort’s ‘The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic’ which was inspired by India, its rich traditions and culture. They were also afforded an opportunity to meet and learn from television chef Rachael Ray whose Yum-O! organization has partnered with the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. The White House has it all covered when it comes to hosting and entertaining young ones!

The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge was sponsored by PBS flagship station WGBH Boston, the US Department of Education and the US Department of Agriculture.

13718552_659853860840438_1553431269586554258_n
Abhijith Jenkins, 11, of Missouri. Recipe: Tropical Vacation with Catfish and Quinoa. Photo credit: The White House

An online link:

Young Indian American chefs attend fifth annual kids’ state dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s