Gathered around a long buffet table laden with plump dark chocolate truffles, bowls of whole-wheat macaroni, piles of cheese, berries, granola and carrots, about two dozen participants in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities program were getting a colorful lesson about healthful food from a local chef.
Twin Cities restaurateur David Fhima was there to demystify healthy food for the kids gathered at the historic (and former) Forum restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. The private event was one of several demonstrations planned throughout the state to get youth involved in the Super Snack Challenge of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.
“Good food is the greatest tool you have to succeed in life,” Fhima told the kids in an hourlong hands-on lesson that included how to make vinaigrette, healthful mac and cheese, the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ever and fresh salads with sautéed vegetables.
The enthusiastic youngsters tied on aprons and got to work with the salad dressing. The vinegar and spices were first. Next came the olive oil and the blending.
“Say it. Emulsify,” Fhima said.
“Emulsify,” the kids responded.
“Now spell it,” Fhima joked.
He showed them how to sauté vegetables briefly to bring up their flavor before laying them on their leafy beds. “What comes after sautè? Caramelize, then deglaze,” he said.
Fhima sliced a knife into an avocado until the blade planted into the pit.
“When you cut an avocado, the knife doesn’t move. The avocado moves. If the avocado doesn’t move, it’s not ready for you. Leave it alone,” he said to giggles.
Camila, 12, and her “Big Sister” Colleen Detloff, both of St. Paul, were on it. “This is the best food I’ve ever had,” the youngster said of the food she helped Fhima make. As for the contest, she already had an idea that involved chocolate and fruit. “I’ll try very hard to win. I’m very competitive,” she said.
Bryce, 9, of Fridley, was also enthused, and an aspiring chef who had a major grin after the kitchen tour. The lessons he learned? “Sugar is already in stuff and [pure] chocolate is healthy.”
He had various contest ideas to work on with “Big Brother” Douglas Kirman of Maple Grove, who will ensure that he enters. His ideas involved a variation on walking tacos, fruit and peanut butter.
Along with Fhima, the contest will be judged by chef/owner Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis and Andrew Zimmern, the TV personality and chef/restaurateur.
The snack challenge, open to all kids 8 to 14, is an extension of the Super Bowl’s Legacy Grant Program that distributes cash to healthy and active youth programs during the 52 weeks before the game. From Windom to Willmar, Minneapolis to International Falls, the committee has given out $2.5 million so far for programs that follow the themes of fun (physical activity), fuel (nutritious food) and fundamentals (a positive coach).
For kids who are considering the challenge but don’t know how to start, Kaysen encourages them to start small by picking their three favorite ingredients that don’t include sugar and “build off of that.”
As a contest judge, Kaysen said he’ll look for recipes with ingredients accessible to children and easy for them to make, maybe a traditional snack with a surprise twist. The food should also include flavors relatively familiar to kids.
As for Kaysen, he snacks on hard-boiled eggs. His young sons eat almonds, cheese, bananas, Greek yogurt and granola and, occasionally, Swedish candy.
To enter, a parent/guardian on behalf of a child 8 to 14 (both must be Minnesota residents) will submit an original snack recipe by Oct. 16 online, with a photo, at mnsuperbowl.com/SuperSnack (where entry forms are available) or by mail at Super Snack Challenge, 200 S. 6th St., Suite 1145, Mpls., MN 55402.
Judging is based on these criteria: how healthful the snack is, how easy it is to make, how creative it is and “how yummy” it is. Check the website for rules and more information.
Three rounds of judging will determine 52 semifinalists, 10 finalists and a grand-prize winner and first and second-place runners-up. All 52 semifinalists will be invited to a special kids’ tailgate party during the Host Committee’s Bold North Festival.
The 10 finalists will each be able to designate a charity to receive $1,000. The grand-prize winner can designate a charity to receive $25,000; first and second runners-up can designate charities to receive $15,000 and $10,000, respectively. Additional prizes may be announced later.