Scott Chopped creates recipes for student learning

Scott Middle School students used a winning recipe of teamwork, time management and top-level organization during a competitive cooking activity this spring.
Eighth graders in Tia Smith’s Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) course took part in the “Scott Chopped” contest. They had to create flavorsome dishes in a safe and speedy manner for a panel of judges. Teams had just 20 minutes to prepare and serve meals that featured the main ingredients of chicken, ramen noodles, pineapple and carrots.
Alexis and Ryann said they enjoyed working with their teammates on their dishes. Alexis helped Team Gray create a ramen noodle soup that was served with glasses of milk. Ryann helped Team Yellow cook up a stir fry meal that highlighted each of the top four ingredients.
“It was really fun and I really liked having something to do with everybody,” Alexis said. “I feel like it really built character.”
“I just like cooking,” Ryann said. “It’s very therapeutic.”
Smith said she was impressed with the skill level her students displayed in their kitchens. All six groups in her second-period class completed their meals in time for judges to evaluate. They also showcased a level of cooperation that would have passed the test at five-star restaurants.
“They had one knife, so if we’re cutting carrots and chicken and pineapple, they had to figure out who is using the knife when, and did it get washed between uses?” Smith said. “The teamwork-in-the-kitchen aspect was a big thing.”
The idea for “Scott Chopped” came after veteran cook Toby Antonson visited Smith’s class last fall. Antonson is a pitmaster of a professional barbecue competition team and runs a barbecue food truck business in Lincoln. He spoke to students about food safety, customer service and running a business.
Antonson and Smith felt a cooking contest would be a good way to give students practical FCS experience. They decided to model it after the popular “Chopped” television show.
“We liked the competition aspect of this one, where it was timed, you had to work as a group, and if you didn’t, you didn’t get done,” Smith said. “We liked that part of it.”
Students had to incorporate chicken, pineapple, carrots and ramen noodles in their dishes, but they were free to create any type of recipe. Smith provided them with a large pantry of spices and sauces they could add to their meal.
“We did give them the ingredients a day beforehand, so if they wanted to do some research to figure out something, they absolutely could,” Smith said.
Groups had six minutes at the beginning of class to finalize their meal plan and delegate preparation responsibilities. They also picked out who would be the lone spokesperson for presenting their food to judges.
“Everything was really hands-on,” Alexis said. “We didn’t get a set plan of what we needed to do. We got to come up with all of it ourselves.”
Alexis and Ryann both said it was eye-opening to experience how fast time melted away. Twenty minutes soon reduced to ten, five and one as they attempted to put the final flavors in their food.
“I learned how to work with people, and I learned that time management is very important when you’re being timed,” Ryann said.
The judges visited each kitchen and asked presenters about their meal and why they chose their recipe. Each dish was then tasted and the scores were tallied.
Team Blue students smiled when Antonson announced that judges had selected their chicken teriyaki meal as the winning entrée. Team member Cooper played a key role with his speaking abilities. Antonson told the entire class that Cooper’s attentive and detailed presentation made the difference in the final standings.
Cooper said after class that he was happy to play a small part in Team Blue’s victory.
“I don’t do a ton of cooking, so I was just going along with everyone in the kitchen,” Cooper said. “The only thing I was really good at was speaking, I guess, so I wanted to do that to help the team as best I could.”
Antonson congratulated each team at the end of class. He said he was proud of them for the way they worked together to reach their goals.
“I can tell you that this was amazing to watch,” Antonson said. “All of you did well.”
Alexis said she enjoyed the entire “Scott Chopped” experience. She felt her time in Smith’s FCS classroom would be a main ingredient in her recipe for success in life.
“I really like having hands-on classes and being able to learn things that I’ll use in real life,” Alexis said.
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Published: May 22, 2024, Updated: May 23, 2024

Scott Middle School students prepare a meal during the Scott Chopped contest this spring. Each team had to use four main ingredients of chicken, carrots, pineapple and ramen noodles in the dishes. Students could add extra ingredients and spices and could be creative with the presentation of their dish.