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National Restaurant Association - Kids Recipe Challenge serves up winning foods

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Kids Recipe Challenge serves up winning foods

Some small restaurant patrons made a big statement about what they like to eat at restaurants when they judged the National Restaurant Association’s inaugural Kids Recipe Challenge April 27.

The event, created by the NRA and founding partner McCormick for Chefs, the commercial division of McCormick & Company, was held April 27 at the new McCormick World of Flavors store in Baltimore, and showcased a tasting by 30 kid judges aged 8 to 12 years old. The kids tested a series of food items that were made from recipes submitted by restaurants and foodservice companies from around the country.

On the day before the kids’ taste test, a panel of industry professionals selected the meals that went on to become competition finalists. They were: celebrity chef Judson Todd Allen of Healthy Infused Cuisine; Jessie Coffey of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Sandra Ford, president of the School Nutrition Association; Molly McCloskey of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign; Patti Montague, CEO of the School Nutrition Association; Xavier Teixido, owner of Harry’s Savoy Grill and an NRA trustee; Bret Thorn, senior food editor for Nation’s Restaurant News; Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for the U.S. Drug Administration’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services division; and Michael Ty, national president of the American Culinary Federation.

In order to participate in the recipe challenge, all operators submitting recipes from their children’s menus were required to meet the nutrition guidelines of the NRA’s Kids LiveWell initiative, which focuses on helping parents and children find healthful menu options when dining out. Criteria include increased portions of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy and a reduction of ingredients such as unhealthful fats, sugars and sodium.

The youngsters sampled the items and selected the competition’s winners in each of four key categories: independent restaurant or company with fewer than 20 units; multiunit company with more than 20 units, contract managed food service; and independent noncommercial food service.

The winners were:

  • Qdoba Mexican Grill’s Lil’ Pulled Pork Naked® Burrito (Multi-unit company with more than 20 units). A Lil’ Pulled Pork Burrito is a burrito served without the flour tortilla in a bowl, and includes cilantro-lime rice, hand-shredded pulled pork, fresh pico de gallo and roasted chile corn salsa with a side of applesauce and low-fat milk. The restaurant company, with more than 600 locations in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada, is headquartered outside of Denver.
  • Boston Lobster Feast’s Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti Squash (Independent restaurant or company with fewer than 20 units). A healthier alternative to traditional chicken parmesan served with spaghetti squash to convert even the pickiest eaters. The Boston Lobster Feast restaurants are located in the Orlando, Fla. area.
  • Chartwells School Dining Services Chix-N-Cheddar Snappy Jalapeño Wrap (Contract Managed Food Service). The meal includes a whole grain flour tortilla filled with chicken and black bean puree, topped with cheddar cheese with a spicy ranch dressing along with dark leafy greens, fresh jalapenos and served with fresh salsa.  Chartwells School Dining Services, a division of Charlotte, NC based Compass Group, provides dining services for over 550 school districts, comprising over 6,000 separate elementary, middle and high schools nationwide.
  • Tim Horton Children’s Foundation’s Yum! Yum! Chip Chicken (Independent Noncommercial Food Service). A new twist on traditional chicken fingers, coating them with lightly salted potato chips and served with low-fat dressing, sweet potatoes and a side of broccoli. The foundation operates camps for economically disadvantaged children throughout Canada and the U.S.

“It is very important that kids see foods on our table like the foods that are on their table,” the NRA’s Teixido said. “I think … we matched that up pretty well. This was about taste, if you really think about it. Everything was nutritious … and healthful … but the [foods] that won were [the ones] that tasted the best. The takeaway was that you can have both.”

All four winners will be recognized for their efforts next month at the 2013 National Restaurant Association, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago.

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