A group of New York City middle schoolers are putting on their aprons and hitting the kitchen for an imaginative and healthy food fight putting their newly learned skills to the test.
On Thursday night 20 students will battle it out during a Student Sandwich Showdown at the Dual Language Middle School, located at 32 West 92nd St.
The students — who are all part of the After-School All-Stars’ MasterChef program — will be given the chance to create healthy sandwiches and will be critiqued by a panel of expert judges.
The After-School All-Stars (ASAS) is an nonprofit organization which offers enrichment activities and after school classes for students at public schools — most of whom are part of low-income communities.
As part of the services offered by ASAS, students can participate in classes like robotics or cooking.
“Young people fall in love with learning in different ways and different phases,” said Dax-Devlon Ross, executive director of ASAS. “Our goal as educators is to create conditions for young people to love learning.”
Students who select to be part of ASAS’ MasterChef program get the chance to learn about healthy eating habits, hands-on cooking, kitchen basics, reading and understanding nutrition labels.
The children also have the opportunity to meet with local chefs.
“Our work is really designed to help young people have a different relationship with food,” Ross said. “To understand that food can be something that fuels their day or ruins their day.”
During Thursday’s competition — which is slated to start at 6 p.m. — students will be provided with different fresh ingredients provided by Amy Scherber, founder of Amy’s Bread, and will have the chance to select ingredients and come up with their sandwiches.
The students will then be judged on presentation, creativity and taste. And although the competition is similar to that of the Food Network’s high-intensity show “Chopped,” Ross said he hopes the kids will overall have a great time.
“On one level we are trying to connect the work we are doing to the larger conversation of food and at the same time, it’s to reward the kids for their work,” he said. “I hope the kids get out of it a feeling of accomplishment. We’re here to support [them]. I really do hope they have fun.”
Thursday’s event is part of Chef Sandwiches for Good, a charity sandwich program started in March by the owner of Amy’s Bread — which specializes in handmade, traditional breads as well as sandwiches and other pastries— and each month features sandwiches created by top chefs.
The chefs each select an organization that will receive a portion of the proceeds gathered from the sale of their sandwiches, which are offered through the various Amy’s Bread locations.
In April, Chef Galen Zamarra — owner of restaurants Mas (farmhouse) and Almanac — created the "All-Star Turkey Cheddar Melt" in honor of the After-School All-Stars.
“We’re excited to help bring greater awareness of healthy eating to kids in an after-school activity that could potentially lead to a culinary career,” Zamarra said. “The Sandwich Showdown will give the kids an opportunity to work with quality, healthy ingredients in a fun and creative way, and we hope they’ll use that creativity in their own daily lives.”