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Winner Announced in United Way’s Youth Cooking Challenge underwritten by MVP Health Care

The community has voted and two teams have been selected as finalists in United Way’s Youth Cooking Challenge underwritten by MVP Health Care. This unique competition began with six contestants being selected and paired with a local chef. Each team was professionally filmed preparing their “signature” dish. The public then had the opportunity to vote for their favorite child and chef team.
 
The finalists were:
Olivia Cofano, 11 and Chef Michael Latreille of Micahel’s Fine Food and Spirits 
Jonathan Kornmeyer, 11 and Victor Ramirez of Madison Bistro 
 
The two teams advanced to a “cook-off” finale event broadcasted Live on Facebook on April 10th at Restaurant Equipment Equipment Corp.’s fully equipped test kitchen and went head to head creating two dishes incorporating four surprise ingredients! The surprise ingredients included: flank steak, oatmeal, goat cheese, and strawberry preserves.
 
“The freshness of working with youth, someone who is 11 years old, brought this competition to a completely different level. When your competing with kids, while it’s competitive, it’s also just fun”, stated Chef Victor Ramirez while waiting for the judges to choose a winner at the end of the event. 
 
“We as chefs can get caught up in the day to day operations of the restaurant, and this was just so refreshing. It was great to work with the youth and get to know them. I am kind of sad it’s over” added Chef Michael Latreille.
 
Three judges including Jillian Ducato of Fortus Healthcare Resources/Primary Urgent Care, Sonia Martinez of the Mohawk Valley Latino Association, and Bill Vinci of The Empire Plate, watched each team prepare their two dishes as their mouths watered from the aroma in the kitchen. Each judge was presented with the final dishes to taste and were tasked with choosing the winner of the challenge. “They both did something special and unique in creating these dishes, they truly were fantastic” commented judge Bill Vinci. 
 
In the end, the judges announced team Olivia Cofano and Chef Michael Latreille as the winner of the event! As the winner was announced, both Olivia and Jonathan showed their sportsmanship in congratulating each other. “It was a really tough choice, all the dishes were so good!”, stated judge Jillian Ducato. 
 
“We almost couldn’t stop tasting the food long enough to talk among the judges and deliberate!”, added judge Sonia Martinez.
 
The winner received a grand prize cooking themed basket valued at $250. The runner up received a cooking themed prize basket valued at $150. All contestants received a healthy teen cookbook written by teen winner of Master Chef Junior.
The 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 inaugural event.
 
This event is also made possible thanks to sponsors Capitol Arts Complex, Restaurant Equipment Equipment Corp., Townsquare Media, Primary Urgent Care, CNY Labor Council, Hannaford Supermarkets, MVCC Professional Association, Utica First Insurance Company, and United Way Board of Directors.
 
You can catch the whole finale event by visitng United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/UnitedWayVGU.