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A Wild Challenge in South Carolina

There’s something a little bit WILD going on in the South Carolina school nutrition system.  At the recent South Carolina School Nutrition Conference, a full-blown Chopped Challenge took place testing participants’ cooking skills to the max and resulting in one very excited 1st place winner. Four teams of school nutrition staffers from Lancaster, Greenville, Williamsburg County and Greenwood 50, competed in the challenge, producing a school meal containing a trio of ingredients, including pulled pork, fresh spinach, and frozen Wild Blueberries from Maine.

Each team received identical ingredients and equipment and were challenged to only use what was provided to prepare a winning school lunch meal in just 45 minutes. The equipment included a 6-foot-long work table, a range, a collection of small cooking appliances, a peeler, a grater, 1-2 cutting boards, 1-2 knives, a thermometer, spatula, 2-3 small bowls, measuring spoons, a frying pan, spoon, bucket of soapy water and sanitizer. Additional ingredients included assorted spices, flour, oil, fresh and canned fruits and vegetables, whole wheat wraps, and water.

After 45 minutes of cooking, the four teams presented their meal to the judges.

First place went to the Lancaster team which created a delicious Apple Pear and Wild Blueberry Compote and Yogurt Topping. The team used Wild Blueberries in two different ways. First as a fruit compote with apples, pears topped with a yogurt sweetened with Wild Blueberries and lemon zest. They also made a spinach salad with Wild Blueberries. Their entrée featured a shredded pork quesadilla with sautéed peppers, onions and garlic and a homemade BBQ sauce.  Head chef Hally Adams noted that if her team had more time, they would have used Wild Blueberries in the BBQ sauce as well.

Hally, who cooks at Buford High School in Lancaster, SC, says she was particularly inspired to use the Wild Blueberries because she grew up in Maine, the land of Wild Blueberries, and spent much of her married life in New Hampshire, where Wild Blueberries as also abundant. Hally’s Maine connection runs so deep in fact, that she can recall her brothers actually raking Wild Blueberries in the summertime, a longstanding tradition that takes place annually in Wild Blueberry barrens of Maine. Hally admits that she’s a huge fan of Wild Blueberries and she even makes a “a darn good Blueberry crisp,” which is a big hit at Buford High School.

Congratulations to all of the teams that participated,” said David MacDowell (aka “Mr. Wild Blueberry”) the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine representative who oversaw the Chopped Challenge. “It was an honor for me to witness the culinary expertise, professionalism, and enthusiasm exhibited by the teams representing these school districts.”  All participants in the Challenge received Wild Blueberry aprons and hats in appreciation of their efforts.