Young chefs to show off culinary chops


Members of the A.R. Gus Barksdale Boys and Girls Club of Rockdale County have one mission this upcoming week – to create the best salsa in metro Atlanta.

They are putting their culinary skills to the test at the 2017 “Salsa, Salsa” event hosted by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta on July 11 at The Greystone at Piedmont Park.

“I am excited for people to say that they like our salsa,” said Jaliyah Web, a fifth-grade student at Hightower Elementary School.

Web is one of eight members who are a part of the Garden Club at the Barksdale Boys and Girls Club. Staff member Amelia Davis supervises the children.

“I gave them some ideas, and they came up with their own measurement on how to make the salsa,” Davis said.

Their ‘Sa’Roasted Tomato’ recipe includes a combination of tomatoes, jalapeno, black pepper, limes, red and white onions, as well as cilantro and mint leaves that they have personally grown. Rules of the contest require teams to use at least one ingredient from their own club garden.

The Barksdale Club tends to multiple sets of garden beds where it has grown a variety of items such as zucchini, watermelon, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cilantro, and rosemary.

Davis said gardening has provided the children with a new perspective on their food and made them willing to try vegetables they might otherwise steer away from.

“For a lot of the kids, broccoli is not their favorite thing,” Davis said. “But they were excited once they saw their broccoli grow from a seedling.

“And we were able to harvest it. Then we went in and made a broccoli salad with it, and they actually liked it. I think it’s because it was something they grew on their own, and it was different from what they thought it would taste.”

Davis said that the gardening initiative has also generated interest among the parents who bring in seedlings for them to plant.

The “Salsa, Salsa” event is a means for the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atalanta to highlight its cooking and gardening programs and promote healthy eating.

“Many kids, particularly from low-income neighborhoods, do not have access to healthy food and safe places to play,” said Missy Dugan, President and CEO of BGCMA. “Programs like this teach our kids that eating right and staying active can be fun. They help kids build healthy habits now we hope will stay with them for a lifetime.”

More than 20 Boys and Girls Clubs from across the city will participate in this year’s event. In addition to eating salsa, participants will also have a chance to learn the Salsa from professional dancers who will be teaching the members, staff, and volunteers how to move to the rhythm and use dance for a healthy lifestyle.

The Barksdale Club has won the “People’s Choice” award for their recipe for two years in a row, and are determined to win the top prize this year.

Their salsa will be judged by experts such as chefs, restaurant owners, and fitness professionals, and scored on taste, aroma, consistency, presentation, and originality. The winning salsa will be featured at a local Willy’s Mexicana Grill this summer.