TOWNSHEND -- The Leland & Gray "Rebel Amigas" began practicing last fall for Vermont's Junior Iron Chef competition.
They worked on their chosen dish -- a vegetable and tofu cilantro naan with parsnip quenelle and chili dipping sauce. And, in the process, the five team members developed more than their culinary skills: They built cohesiveness.
"When we cook, it's like everybody has their own job," said eighth-grader Nastia Stevens. "You don't need to tell them to do something. They do it."
She added that, when it came time for the March 22 statewide competition in Essex Junction, "we weren't really worried about the food at all."
The Leland & Gray team's rapport and unity of purpose garnered a Junior Iron Chef "Mise en Place" award. The honor is given to "the team that shows exemplary teamwork, order and professionalism," and it brings a big smile to the face of coach Joe Gerardi.
"I'm just so proud of these girls for that professionalism that they brought together for their team," Gerardi said.
Junior Iron Chef is a collaboration between Burlington School Food Project and Vermont FEED, which stands for "food education every day." That speaks to the dedication shown by Leland & Gray team members, who met once a week since the beginning of the school year "to create the recipe and fine-tune it and perfect their skills," said Sue Jones, a family and consumer-science teacher who also is involved with the team.
The Rebel Amigas consist of Leland & Gray junior Casey Williams; ninth-grader Bailey Gouin; Stevens; and seventh-graders Kaylah Jacobs and Fairen Stark.