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Youth Cooking Challenge

Help get your favorite team one step closer to the finale in United Way’s Youth Cooking Challenge underwritten by MVP!

VOTE HERE! (Link will be live March 19-April 1)

How the Youth Cooking Challenge Works

Children are paired with a local chef and each team is professionally filmed preparing a “signature” dish. The public will be invited to vote for their favorite team using an online voting platform beginning Monday, March 19 through Sunday, April 1 – stay tuned for further details.

After the online voting period, the two teams will advance to a “cook-off” finale event scheduled for Tuesday, April 10. This event will be held at Restaurant Equipment Equipment Corp. brand-new test kitchen located at 53 New Hartford Shopping Center, New Hartford.

All contestants will receive a healthy teen cookbook written by the teen winner of Master Chef Junior, the runner-up will receive a cooking themed prize basket valued at $150, and United Way’s Youth Cooking Challenge grand prize winner will receive a cooking themed prize basket valued at $250.

This cooking challenge is a component of United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area’s health initiative with a focus on childhood health and wellness including obesity prevention. 

A special thank you to MVP Health Care, our health and wellness partner for this event.


Meet the Contestants

Meet Olivia Cofano!

Olivia is paired up with chef Michael Latreille of Michael’s Fine Food and Spirits. Thanks for donating your time and experience, chef! Olivia is 11 years old and has been cooking for about 3 years. Olivia has a great passion for cooking. She has taken cooking classes at MVCC and will take a Kids Master Chef class this spring. She hopes to attend culinary school and one-day open her own restaurant!



Meet Thomas Crofford!

Thomas is paired up with chef Diane DeRollo of Roso’s Café. Thomas is 11 years old and has been cooking for about a year. Thomas loves to try new things in the kitchen. He was a vegetarian for many years and prefers a fresh and healthy style of cooking using vegetables, fruits, and fish.




Meet Gabriel DiGiorgio!

Gabriel is paired up with chef Chance Bear of Lincklaen House. Gabriel is 11 years old and with both parents having cooking backgrounds he has helped in the kitchen most of his life! One of his first memories is helping bake dozens of Christmas cookies for family and friends. Gabriel loves to bake and experiment with Italian and French cooking.




Meet Jonathan Kornmeyer!

Jonathan is paired up with chef Victor Ramirez of Madison Bistro. Jonathan is 11 years old and has always had a keen interest in cooking. He started creating his own dishes around age 5! Jonathan plans and cooks dinner, lunches, and holiday meals with his mother. He loves all types of food especially seafood and Italian dishes. Jonathan doesn’t shy away from trying unusual foods, and has tried ox tongue, frog legs, kangaroo, and alligator!



Meet Maya Padmanabhan!

Maya is paired up with chef Carl Mierek of The Local Farm To Table Catering. Maya is 10 years old and is a very enthusiastic helper in the kitchen. She would cook every day if she could! Baking is Maya’s favorite but she is also very interested in cooking healthy meals. She experiments with flavors and likes to play “Chopped” at home by creating dishes with surprise ingredients. Maya is not picky and loves all different types of foods and spices.



Meet Nitalia Wright!

Nitalia is paired up with chef Melinda Thomas of Baggs Square Café. Nitalia is 12 years old and learned to cook from her mother and grandma. She remembers cooking in her Easy Bake Oven and how she loved making things for other people to enjoy. Nitalia likes a variety of foods; particularly Southern-style cooking including baked macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and desserts like custard and mousse. Nitalia’s sweet and humble personality shines in the kitchen!



Latest News:

Contestants Selected for United Way Youth Cooking Challenge

Applications Open for Youth Cooking Challenge


Thank you to our sponsors!

Executive Chef Sponsor: MVP Health Care

Sous Chef Sponsors: Capitol Arts Complex  |  Restaurant Equipment Equipment Corp.  |  Townsquare Media

Chef de Partie Sponsors: Primary Urgent Care  |  CNY Labor Council

Prep Cook Sponsors: Hannaford Supermarkets  |  MVCC Professional Association  |  Utica First Insurance Company  | United Way Board of Directors