Yarmouth team gets top marks in school cook-off

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BATH — Education and edibles shared a plate as a statewide cooking competition kicked off last week.

Two-person teams from Falmouth, Yarmouth and Lewiston – each composed of an adult and youth – squared off in the kitchen at the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center April 5 for the first of two regional “Farm to School Cook-Off” competitions.

The Maine Department of Education held the second regional event at Hampden Academy Monday, with the winners to face each other at the final statewide competition at a time and place to be determined.

The IncrEdibles from the Yarmouth school system, which won last year’s final competition, scored top marks at the April 5 regional event. Nikki Pilavakis-Davoren, a member of the 2017 team and a nutrition worker, was joined this year by Isaac Pendleton, a seventh-grader at Harrison Middle School.

“The person that was supposed to work with me got sick yesterday, so Isaac – who’s a foodie kind of guy – said ‘I’ll do it, what the heck,'” Pilavakis-Davoren said with a smile.

Pendleton’s lifelong interest in cooking was sparked by peeling a few pounds of shrimp when he was 4 or 5, he recalled.

Cooking is “kind of a passion,” he added.

Yarmouth served up a hot parfait made with apples, wild blueberries and plain yogurt for breakfast, and pollock fish sticks with tzatziki sauce and mediterranean millet salad for lunch.

The Galley Gang from the Falmouth school system – Justin Deri, its garden/greenhouse manager, and Falmouth High School junior Jake Mitchell – took second place with a breakfast wrap and fish-stick tacos. Mitchell is doing an independent study on the culinary arts.

The Blue Devils of Lewiston, featuring Lewiston High School Food Service Manager Fern Langlois and high school senior Makennah Pelletier, came in third. Pelletier work at the Green Ladle Restaurant, part of the Lewiston Regional Technical Center.

It’s the third year of the competition, and the first that included students.

The event was open to food service staff from all Maine school districts; people from six school systems volunteered for the competition this year.

“The goal of the program is to recognize school nutrition staff for their skills and creativity while producing high-quality meals that can be replicated in a school kitchen,” a DOE press release noted.

Each team had an hour to produce a breakfast meal and prepare a lunch, and later a half hour to cook the lunch. The meals used two Maine-homegrown “challenge” ingredients: yogurt donated by the Maine Dairy Council, and locally-caught pollack gifted by P.J. Merrill Seafood in Portland.

Judges included a school nutrition director, a professional chef, and local students. Representatives from DOE’s Child Nutrition team were also present.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Teams from school systems in Falmouth, Yarmouth and Lewiston participated in a regional round April 5 of the Maine Department of Education’s “Farm to School Cook-Off.” The event was held at the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center.

Nikki Pilavakis-Davoren, a Yarmouth schools nutrition worker, and Isaac Pendleton, a seventh-grader at Harrison Middle School, won a regional cooking competition with their apple and blueberry hot parfait.

Lewiston High School Food Service Manager Fern Langlois, left, and high school senior Makennah Pelletier, assemble a breakfast parfait with red, white and blue elements: strawberries, apples, cinnamon and blueberries, with Grandy Oats from Hiram.

Justin Deri, the Falmouth school system’s garden/greenhouse manager, at left, and Falmouth High School junior Jake Mitchell prepare a breakfast wrap.

Falmouth High School junior Jake Mitchell, left, and Justin Deri, the school system’s garden/greenhouse manager, present their culinary concoction to a panel of judges: student Jalin Coleman, left, Hyde School Executive Chef Michael Flynn, students Patrick Conlin and Margaret Chipman, and Erin Dow, nutrition director in Freeport-based Regional School Unit 5.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.