Cooking…a sport? Why not!
Mar 21, 2014 | 2217 views | 0 0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Deming in his new-found favorite winter element, snow.
Deming in his new-found favorite winter element, snow.
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A few months into reporting for this publication, sometime in late 2012, I was told to zip down to Twin Valley Middle School to write an article on the Jr. Iron Chef competition, something described to me as really cool, really popular, and really a big deal locally. I was told it had such a great participation that it occasionally took precedent over the established sports I was covering. That being said, I had my doubts. Then I walked into the gymnasium of the middle school and saw a packed house, filled with high schoolers and middle schoolers chopping, dicing, grilling, frying…well you get the picture. I realized that once again I had stumbled across one of those unique activities that everyone in the valley gets involved in, and it only took one conversation with Alonzo Paige to understand the driving force behind its enthusiasm. Now, Jr. Iron Chef has turned into one of those events I look forward to covering for two reasons: 1. Anyone who knows me knows I like covering school events for the paper. 2. I love every kind of food.

This last point cannot be emphasized enough, in fact, my dream was to take over as host of Man vs. Food, but I decided to take the life of a writer instead.

Once again, the faces I saw at each table cooking up the goods this year were kids I recognized from articles I wrote about sports, high school musicals, and community events, and other extracurricular activities. The advisors to each team were once again an eclectic group of parents, teachers, and community members, and the judges happened to be some of the best chefs I’ve found in the valley. This year once again displayed the true community spirit that goes into the competition, making it easy for the casual observer, or reporter, to understand how Twin Valley’s teams have taken home the top awards every year since its local inception.

While one can focus on the community spirit of the event, make no mistake, the competition element isn’t lost on the kids, and especially not on Paige. “It’s highly competitive,” Paige told me. “It’s always been my angle that, sometimes to the chagrin of the organization, we want to win, and we’re going to do it fair and square.”

Competition always nurtures teamwork, helps to develop skills, and may be the best catalyst for team building exercises there is. Paige said that letting the students form their own teams helps drive the numbers up each year, but just because you’re with your buddies, doesn’t mean you can slack, and this lesson isn’t lost on the Jr. Iron Chefs of Twin Valley.

So for me, as a sports writer, it raises the question: should cooking be a school sport? Let’s review: life skills, team-building, competition, development of goals, teammates, and coaches. I don’t see why not. While I think that Hell’s Kitchen is a waste of brain cells, in the same way that The Voice or American Idol are detriments to the music industry, a statewide cooking competition for kids is flat out fantastic, especially when the goal is to use local, healthy products in our cafeterias.

If ice dancing is considered a sport, if cheerleading is considered a sport, and if poker games are shown on ESPN, why not cooking?

I think that Paige and Twin Valley have already made that decision, whether the rest of the world has or not. All one needs to do is look at the banners in the Twin Valley High School gym to know what it means to these kids.

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