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Kitchen competition boosts teen teamwork


Anthony Gentry adds some seasoning to a hamburger as C.J. Osceola tends to his grilled cheese roll-ups Oct. 13 during the cook-off.
Anthony Gentry adds some seasoning to a hamburger as C.J. Osceola tends to his grilled cheese roll-ups Oct. 13 during the cook-off.

HOLLYWOOD — The Hollywood Boys & Girls Club kitchens were transformed into competitive arenas recently as teens worked to outdo each other in a pair of after-school cook-offs.

At stake were bragging rights and popsicles; winners got the glory while losers had cleanup duty.

The good-natured contests were designed to build camaraderie among the teens while teaching them valuable life and kitchen skills, said Boys & Girls Club counselor Andrea Stinson.

“We’re trying to teach them self-sufficiency,” Stinson said. “Since a lot of the teens don’t go to the same school, they don’t really know each other. This helps them learn to coordinate and work together.”

The first contest on Sept. 21 pitted a boys team against a girls team. The menu consisted of burgers and fresh fruit smoothies.

Wielding spatulas and seasonings, the kids got busy on the stove top and griddle. An assortment of cheeses found their way onto the burgers while apples, bananas and strawberries were fed into the blender with yogurt.

Judges, who considered taste, originality and presentation, deemed it a close call, but the boys won.

The next match on Oct. 13 mixed up the genders as both teams had boys and girls. Grilled cheese, fruit parfaits and smoothies were on the menu. This time, some kids came prepared with recipes; others searched online; and some let their taste buds be their guide.

“Sometimes you just go by instinct,” Anthony Gentry, 14, said. “I cook whatever I think will taste good. I don’t do anything stupid.”

Anthony’s grilled cheese had plenty of cheese along with ham, bacon and a burger for good measure.

C.J. Osceola, 14, learned to cook by volunteering in the Boys & Girls Club kitchen over the summer. He still cooks for youth almost every day. He made French toast roll-ups with ham and cheese and came up with a desert in the last five minutes.

On the other team, Nae Nae Wilson, 12, who wants to be a chef when she grows up, created a recipe using turkey breast and just the right amount of cheese.

“It’s going to be delicious and awesome,” said Lee Sanders, 13, as he warmed up a pot of tomato soup to accompany the sandwiches.

Lee and Eden Billie, 12, made smoothies garnished with strawberries and grapes.

On the competing team, Trinity Bowers, 15, created smoothies made of apples, bananas and strawberries.

In the last few minutes, C.J. made a cake in a mug from scratch. That and their perfect score in creativity put C.J., Anthony and Trinity’s team on top.

Stinson hopes to add more cook-offs to the teen schedule.

“The kids get a lot more confident during the contests,” she said. “Now that they are working in teams, they talk to each other more.”

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at