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A 13-year-old winner from ‘Chopped’ judged North Miami Beach school’s cooking contest

Students rush to get their ingredients for their dishes during the culinary competition Wednesday at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach. Rachel Goldzal, the 13-year-old who became the first kosher-observant champion of the Food Network’s cooking reality show, “Chopped,” judged the student competition.
Students rush to get their ingredients for their dishes during the culinary competition Wednesday at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach. Rachel Goldzal, the 13-year-old who became the first kosher-observant champion of the Food Network’s cooking reality show, “Chopped,” judged the student competition. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Sadie Lemmer, 13, a middle school student at Scheck Hillel Community School, enjoys watching the Food Network’s “Chopped.”

On Tuesday, she got a taste of being on the show and received a critique from Rachel Goldzal, a 13-year-old former contestant, as she took part in her school’s version of “Chopped.”

“I used to cook a lot,” Sadie said. “It is a fun show to watch.”

The television program challenges four promising chefs to create a three-course meal with everyday ingredients. Four chefs compete in each episode, which is divided into three rounds.

In the competition at the school, which is in North Miami Beach, teams made up of three middle-school students and a teacher or parent must create a dish with four surprise ingredients. A total of 17 teams competed. Each had access to a pot and a pan, a small burner and a pantry, which includes vegetables, fruits and other foods.

Three judges including Rachel determined the winner. Rachel, the first kosher-observant contestant to win on “Chopped” when she bested two 12-year-olds and a 10-year-old last September, flew in from New York for the event, courtesy of the school parents’ association.

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Eyal Vaxman, 13, stirs his ingredients as he and his team prepare food in a cooking contest at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach. CHARLES TRAINOR JR ctrainor@miamiherald.com


“I’ve never done a live thing in front of such a big crowd, but I did a small ‘Chopped’ challenge,” said Rachel, who judged the team’s creativity, taste and flavor combination.

The teams can win various prizes such as movie tickets or vouchers for restaurants. This year, Team Light Blue won, which included students Isaac Ohev-Zion, Esther Ohev-Zion, Ariella Bitton and parent Michelle Ohev. The winning team prepared a Spanish frittata with Sriracha sauce and a coconut potato hash. The secret ingredients were coconut, jalapeños, tricolor potatoes and corn.

Although there are a few ingredients to work with, the final products are eye opening, said volunteer Susy Abbo. “There have been interesting preparations in previous events,” she said.

Sadie and her Team Light Pink went into the competition not knowing what to cook, but remained confident. She looked forward to speaking to Rachel. “It’s going to be fun to meet Rachel,” she said. “It’s cool to act like you are on the show.”

Her team made an omelette with jalapeños, tomato, corn and potatoes. They made a side of applesauce with bananas and coconut and stuffed tomatoes. Rachel gave the thumbs up for the team’s dish because it had “a little bit of everything.”

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Team Light Blue — Esther Ohev-Zion, Issac Ohev-Zion, and Ariella Bitton — winners of the Scheck Hillel Community School cooking contest with judge Rachel Goldzal, 13. CHARLES TRAINOR JR ctrainor@miamiherald.com


Vanessa Donaher, the head of school, said it is a great community experience. “It’s fun to watch the sense of the community and the parents and children,” she said. “It’s usually one of the parents with the children in the team, and to watch the parent interact in a different setting, to see them work on an exercise like this, it’s fun to see that relationship blossom.”

Aside from competition and fun, students learn many skills through this activity, Donaher added. “This gives children a chance to explore their passion, to find ways to show their creativity and passion outside of school,” she said. “It’s a collaboration to work with a team. It works their critical thinking skills. They see things in front of them and get to be creative.”

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