Celebrity chef Jet Tila, who has served as a judge on “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Chopped,” cooked up a batch of healthy recipes for Charlotte Christian School students last week that proved eating well doesn’t mean eating tasteless, unappetizing foods.
Tila gave a step-by-step presentation for middle and high school students about how to make Pad Thai in a healthy and tasty way, encouraging the school’s healthy eating program.
Charlotte Christian started its initiative in 2012, hiring Flik, a division of the Compass Group, as its dining service.
“We started the initiative several years ago after realizing part of our mission is to educate the whole child and we feel like an important piece of that is teaching then how to take care of the gift God gave them of their body and their health,” said Head of School Barry Giller.
The dining service provides students with nutritious and tasty options for lunch that’s incorporated in the school’s tuition. The school provides lunch and students can have as much as they want each day. Children can enjoy two homemade soups, fresh fruit, a salad bar, a sandwich bar, Panini sandwiches, hot entrees and vegetables and rice bowls, among other items.
“We also recognize that a lot of our kids are here for a long time after school, whether it’s for the fine arts or athletics, so we just want to make sure we’re giving them the fuel they need to perform at a higher level,” Giller said. “Unfortunately, the default is to eat unhealthy food, especially in the fast food culture we live in. We wanted to teach them about taking care of their bodies, utilizing healthy foods and making good choices when it comes to meals.”
Tila has had a partnership with Flik and Compass Group for more than a decade.
Flik selects “important schools” for chefs to visit and talk about healthy eating. There are about 200 schools across the nation that is part of Flik’s network.
“No other time are kids so deeply into cooking and that’s exciting because there are worse things that they could be into and there are a lot worse places that you could be on TV,” Tila said. “…Imagine when these kids are college-age – you’re going to have a generation of kids that are cooks.”
Though cooking hasn’t always been popular in youth culture, Tila said he’s seeing a change in the trend; many Charlotte Christian students have an interest in cooking and want to take their skills to the next level.
“For me, it was really exciting because I’m really into cooking at lot,” said eighth-grader Jacob Zeigler, 13. “Watching him how he thinks while he cooks, why he cooks, all the flavors that he puts into in, the work he puts into it and how he memorizes it all.”
Jacob enjoys making breakfast for his family on weekends and, after attending cooking course, he’s made homemade chicken alfredo and chicken pot pie. Next, he wants to learn how to grill steak.
Sixth-grader Lillian Longhi, 11, said she most enjoyed learning all the steps to make Pad Thai and hopes to use Tila’s tips to make the dish.
Both middle schoolers said they want to participate in Flik’s upcoming cooking competition, “CTK,” designed to mirror Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
The competition is slated for Nov. 10 and will include teams of middle school students from Charlotte Christian, as well as other schools, competing against one another. Each team will compete in three 20-minute rounds and must present three plates per round. Chef Tila will host the event.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about teaching them how to eat well and you have to start when they’re at (middle school age) and earlier. You have to program eating habits now,” Tila said.
Like many children, Tila didn’t eat healthily as a child, but now encourages his household of his wife and two children to eat well.
His rule is to select food items that have five ingredients or less and to look at your plate like a pie chart, in which the majority of the plate is vegetables, fruits and lean protein.
“A. Start early; B. Pick a good school like this school that has a phenomenal (dining program) and C. Read labels,” he said.