Boyce Elementary’s Nixon is top chef

Posted: March 14, 2013

The Winchester Star

D.G. Cooley Elementary School fourth-grader Thomas Marsden dices a pepper Wednesday afternoon while competing in the cooking contest at Clarke County High School. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
D.G. Cooley Elementary School third-grader Paul Gennaro prepares a salad while Clarke County Public Schools food worker Wanda Rhoton watches Wednesday afternoon during a cooking competition at Clarke County High School. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

BERRYVILLE — Top chef Tavaras Nixon described his creation — Tavaras Nixon’s Explosion Salad — as perfect.

The mixture of greens includes Craisins [dried cranberries], pico de gallo, corn, pecans, sour cream, chicken, tortilla strips, feta cheese and balsamic dressing.

“It blends in with the Craisins, and the pico de gallo makes it have a kick to it,” said the Boyce Elementary School fourth-grader, who placed first in Sodexo’s third annual Future Chefs Challenge, held Wednesday at Clarke County High School.

Tavaras was one of five elementary school students from Clarke County who took part in the competition. Sodexo is the county’s food and facilities management provider.

The culinary challenge called for participants to make a healthy salad, with points earned for originality, healthy attributes, easy preparation, kid-friendliness, taste and plate presentation.

Bonus points were awarded if students used black beans, chicken, dried herbs or spices, eggs, ground beef, mango, pineapple, roasted or sweet potatoes, strawberries, taco meat, tortillas or turkey.

“This is to get kids involved in how to make healthy foods and expose them to the kitchen and a lot of different foods,” said Vickie Mueller, general manager of Sodexo.

The recipes weren’t required to be original, but participants were asked to at least alter an original recipe to make it their own.

Tavaras’ salad recipe will be submitted to a regional competition.

On Wednesday, D.G. Cooley Elementary School third-grader Rianne Gennaro balled up goat cheese with a smile on her face.

Rianne enjoys making her spring strawberry salad for her father almost every night because it involves being messy.

Asked why she makes the special recipe, Rianne shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s the only one I know.”

Her third-grade brother Paul obtained his recipe from the Internet.

“I like black beans, and the pineapple makes everything a little wetter, so it tastes a little better,” he said. “The peppers are there to make it look good.”

“I’m not that competitive. I just like having fun with it,” Paul said, giving his reasons for joining the cooking challenge.

Thomas Marsden, a fourth-grader at Cooley, made his mango cabbage salad with lime and ginger dressing.

“It’s really sweet and a little bit sour, but not really, and it’s a little spicy,” he said.

Thomas said he receives his cooking expertise from his mother. “Sometimes she makes salads, and I really like them. They’re awesome.”

Derek Sprincis, a fifth-grader at Boyce, tossed up his chickpea salad, which he described as “crunchy, a little salty, creamy and not the sweetest.”

“I kind of want to be a doctor, but I always liked cooking,” Derek said. “You can eat what you see.”

This year’s judges were Schools Superintendent Mike Murphy, director of curriculum and instruction Lisa Floyd and School Board members Barbara Lee and Janet Creager Alger.

Last year, nine middle school students were asked to make a healthy breakfast.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at