Two Bloomingdale High School student chefs are celebrating this month. Seniors Tony Alvarez and Gianna Rivera won the 2018 Fresh From Florida Student Chef Cook Off earning themselves a Florida Prepaid 529 Savings Plan, an apprenticeship with celebrity chef Art Smith and the honor of having their recipe served in school cafeterias.

The Fresh From Florida Student Chef Cook-Off is an annual contest in which students create and prepare an original recipe that uses fresh Florida products and meets the National School Lunch Program nutrition standards.

“Alvarez and Rivera competed against two other regional teams of two to four students from across the state,” said Aaron Keller, press secretary for the Office of Commissioner Adam Putnam. “They were selected based on taste, appearance, creativity, best and most use of local ingredients, best and most use of USDA commodity foods and execution.”

The Bloomingdale duo, who both work at local restaurants, created a recipe called the T&G Burrito which featured salsa made of Florida-grown vegetables, pork, beans and spicy mayo.
“The panel of judges included Chef Art Smith, Chef Bill Castleberry and Leon County School Food Service Procurement Supervisor, Amy Hayden,” said Keller. “Chef Art Smith has earned two James Beard awards and spent 10 years as Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef. Chef Bill Castleberry has been a restauranteur, caterer and culinary educator for the past 25 years.”

Rivera also won the award last year as a junior and will be attending the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park after graduation.

Bloomingdale High School is one of a dozen schools in the county with a culinary division, which is part of the career and technical department. There are approximately 400 students currently enrolled and on completion of the program they will earn industry certification with the National ProStart Certificate of Achievement as a Certified Professional Food Manager from ServSafe.

Rene Marquis, Bloomingdale High School lead culinary instructor is proud of the students. “They found a passion for food, especially at an early age.”

Visit Bloomingdale High School is located at 1700 E. Bloomingdale Ave. and can be reached at 744-8018.

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Kate Quesada
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.