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2020 Flavors for Life Competition

Saturday, February 29th, UNLV nearly 60 students from 9 different Las Vegas high schools hit the kitchen to compete for a $1,000 Scholarship to CSN and a summer internship with me at Canyon Ranch Spa + Fitness.

First off, congratulations to this years top student Mariana Gonzalez who clearly showed her ability to take charge in the kitchen and more importantly, articulate to the 5 judges about how much she really learned in this years curriculum.

As we cooked our way into the second year of we have been able to create deeper connections into our community. Our new partners at the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) graciously donated a $1,000 scholarship to Marian. Dr. Margo Martin, VP of Academic Affairs(photo left) was also one of our expert tasting Judges as well.

Students had a chance to work in the brand new high-tech space at UNLV. We gave them 1 hour to make 6 plates of their healthy recipe. 5 Plates were served to the judges and 1 was held for photos to add to the recipe book that will be available to all the students who participated this year. Yep, they get published too!

Thanks to Chef Michelle West of Red Bird Farms Chicken, we had an experienced Chef observing their team work, knife & food safety skills. 1 Chef monitoring 20 teams?? Definitely an unsung hero back there.

Most of these students have only been exposed to domestic kitchens and similar in their culinary arts classes, so congratulations to all the teachers who spent extra hours preparing their students to be competition ready. Not one of them were required to participate, but they all truly believe their students are worth educating.

Eating healthy has so many definitions and it's truly rewarding to see how these students chose to define their journey. Not one recipe is the same and really goes to show how much variety and flavor healthy food can have if you just take a moment to think about what you really enjoy. These competitors all worked on a strict budget as well.

Thanks to Smith's Food & Drug for donating gift cards, each team had a $75 budget to work with. The beneficial part is that all of these competition quality recipes were bought with common ingredients found at our local grocery stores. Nothing was special order or out of season. They used what was readily available and created recipes that can be made any day and within an hour at home. This is such an important part in sustaining a healthy change in your way of eating.

It isn't easy to pick a winning dish or team and it is especially hard to single out one student. But for competition sake, it's important to give the competitors something to work towards. One thing for them to remember is regardless of a certificate or a medal they are all fully knowledgeable to make healthier choices in what the feed themselves and feed to others. They are armed with important nutritional information to slowly start changing the culture of our community and improve their own health through food. If they take away anything from this curriculum, I hope they can say "Hmmmm, I probably shouldn't eat that, I know better"

The Flavor for Life program was started nearly 8 years ago by Annarella Jordan (Front Row, Second from Left standing next to Board President Nuvia Rodgriguez) with a mission to end the obesity epidemic in our current and future generations to come.

A task this big (literally!) doesn't happen overnight. Nobody has every become obese by eating one biscuit and having a single salad wont heal a wound. Information is the antidote to ignorance and a platform to replace the absence of education, inspiration is what creates the motivation for people who are at least willing to be willing to make a difference in how they live, how the eat and more importantly, how they feel. One meal at a time.

Do you want to see the winning food??

I'm really proud of ALL the competitors. To show in a strange kitchen on a Saturday morning and give it all you got takes a ton of courage. Thank you to all the teachers and parents who support Flavors for Life.

Level 1 Savory Winner: Coronado High School.

Cashew Cream Pasta with cooked tomatoes and chile's

Level 1 Dessert Winner

Northwest Career Technical Academy

Black Forrest Quinoa "Pancakes"

This dish was also prepared by our top student, Mariana Gonzalez. Mariana will have the opportunity to intern at Canyon Ranch Spa + Fitness and gain experience in our 3 restaurants which include; The Canyon Ranch Grill, CR CREAT in the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian Resort and Truth & Tonic Wellness Cafe, the first and only fully plant-based restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip.

Level 2 Savory Winner

Desert Pines High School

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts & Crispy Tofu

Level 2 Dessert

Desert Pines High School

Pumpkin Hummus & Graham Crackers

Overall Best Team

East Career Technical Academy

Pistachio Crusted Cod & Hand Made Pasta.

This team of 2 great competitors was awarded a summer internship with Chef Jainine Jaffer at Shiraz Restaurant in Las Vegas. Chef Jainine is an active board member of Flavors for Life and very active in our community using her eastern philosophy to use food for a healthy purpose.

The 2020 Gastronomic Affair will be September 13th at the Jaguar & Land Rover of Las Vegas Dealership. Save the date to come out and try a healthy tasting from 25 different Chef's & Restaurants in Las Vegas. To purchase tickets visit Flavors for Life

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