Enticing aromas filled the corridor outside the foods lab of Thomas Middle School on Feb. 1, as 4-H members from Cook County competed in the annual Favorite Foods Contest sponsored by the Clever Clovers 4-H Club.
Each participant worked for 90 minutes to prepare a favorite dish from scratch and to present a coordinated day's menu of meals including that favorite dish.
Participants were judged on organizational and menu planning abilities, kitchen skills, and final product presentation.
Judges Chris Murphy, who was a finalist in the recent Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge cook-off, and Laura Westcott, a former 4-H member, reported that the skills level of these young cooks made selecting winners an extremely difficult assignment.
Recognized in the Cloverbud category was Michael McCarthy, 6, of Chicago, who prepared guacamole.
In the ages 8 to 12 category, John Gut of Mount Prospect received first place for simple bacon hamburgers, and Michael Green of Dolton placed second with steamed tilapia on a bed of rice.
In the ages 13 and over category, Kaitlyn Ball of Arlington Heights won first place preparing pork Florentine en croute with rosemary mashed potatoes. Tying for second place were Julia Harlos of Schaumburg with chocolate pudding with whipped cream and Alexia Ballasch of Island Lake making savory spinach quiche.
Contestants also displayed a themed table setting and a daily menu of meals with Ellie Gut of Mount Prospect awarded first place and Rynazhae Henderson of Chicago receiving second place.
4-H is a club-based program under the auspices of University of Illinois Extension Service that helps youth learn life skills and participate in community service.
For more information, contact North Cook County 4-H at (847) 818-2901, South Cook County 4-H at (708) 679-6889, or Chicago 4-H at (773) 768-7779.