FARGO — For many American kids, breakfast might mean a bowl of sugary cereal, a slice of toast and a pack of yogurt, but for some junior chefs from the Fargo-Moorhead area, it’s a little more complicated.

“I made an omelet with cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, onion, minced garlic, cheese, salsa and parsley,” said fifth grader Alexa Almendarez of Christine, N.D.

Who needs a Pop-Tart?

Almendarez is one of nine young chefs competing in the Healthy Kids Cooking Competition, part of the first-ever Cooking for a Cause Gourmet Gala, put on by Family Wellness in Fargo on Nov. 5.

Alexa Almendarez, 12, Christine, N.D. is sauteeing onions during the "Healthy Kids Cooking Competition." Tracy Briggs/The Forum
Alexa Almendarez, 12, Christine, N.D. is sauteeing onions during the "Healthy Kids Cooking Competition." Tracy Briggs/The Forum

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“The whole concept of us teaching healthful cooking, where you’re going to be using healthier options — fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains — is when kids get involved, they’re more likely to eat those things,” said Angela Hasbrouck, Family Wellness assistant director.

The chefs gathered at Family Wellness over the weekend, where cameras recorded every move of their healthy omelet-making. Each contestant was able to choose from healthy proteins and veggies along with condiments and garnishes. Judges rated each contestant on taste, presentation and technique.

Judges rated the competitors on taste, presentation and technique. Tracy Briggs/The Forum
Judges rated the competitors on taste, presentation and technique. Tracy Briggs/The Forum

“Some of them are unbelievable how good they are, especially with how young they are,” said judge Colleen Kraft from the culinary program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College.

The proud parents on the sidelines seem a little surprised themselves.

“I think we’ll just watch him do the magic; he can do it better than I can,” said Eric Tarnow of his 10 -year-old son Vaughn.

Filecia Wietzema said Alexa has always loved to cook and bake and was helping her in the kitchen when she was just 4 or 5 years old.

“She just picked all of the apples off of our apple tree and made apple crisp and sold it to buy an iPad,” Wietzema said.

Alexa says she practiced for the competition, making three omelets the day before. She says she’s learned a few tricks for working with the eggs.

“You just pour it in, then there’s a little window where you can see the bottom of the pan. Then let it cook until you see white or yellow so you know the bottom is cooked,” she said. “Then put all of the ingredients in, put the cheese in to melt it. Then flip it.”

The end result was an omelet pretty enough for any buffet.

Cameras rolled as competitors made their healthy omelettes. The winner of the Healthy Kids Cooking Competition will be announced at the Family Wellness Cooking for a Cause Gourmet Gala on Thursday, Nov. 5. Tracy Briggs/The Forum
Cameras rolled as competitors made their healthy omelettes. The winner of the Healthy Kids Cooking Competition will be announced at the Family Wellness Cooking for a Cause Gourmet Gala on Thursday, Nov. 5. Tracy Briggs/The Forum

Of course, the young chefs say one of their favorite parts of the event is eating what they made.

“It is really good,” said Chef Vaughn, who says he says he likes to cook for his parents and grandparents. “I just like that it makes people happy.”

The winner of the cooking competition will be announced at the November 5th event and will receive a $400 prize package from Pampered Chef.

Hasbrouck calls the kids “amazing” and says this is so much more than a one-day competition.

“These kids are not only cooking with healthful ingredients today, they’re becoming ambassadors with their classmates,” she said. “‘Hey, I’m going to try this healthy food. I invited you to join me.’”

Contestants were given the option of healthy vegetables and proteins for use in their omelette. Tracy Briggs/The Forum
Contestants were given the option of healthy vegetables and proteins for use in their omelette. Tracy Briggs/The Forum

For more information:

What: Cooking for a Cause Gourmet Virtual Gala

When: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Nov. 5

Where: Avalon Events Center and online

The hybrid event will feature socially-distanced, in-person seating for participants and sponsors, and virtual access for all who want to tune in at home – with a fun, interactive twist!

All virtual tickets will include a meal kit to take home with ingredients to make and eat a fun family meal together the night of the gala. Junior chef finalists from the Healthy Kids Cooking Competition will assist a healthy cooking instructor in a video for you to follow along with in cooking the meal. Gala participants can also participate in a silent auction, and the junior chef will be recognized..

All funds raised go towards the Inspire Wellness Initiative to help people in the community to cook well, move well, and live well for life. For more information visit: familywellnessfargo.org