Teens accept Manheim Community Library’s ‘Chopped Challenge’

By on July 10, 2019

What appetizer would you make using chickpeas, cooked pasta, fresh spinach, Greek yogurt and Jolly Ranchers? And what dessert would you make using mint, chocolate humus, plantains, cauliflower rice and graham crackers? Those were the challenges faced by teens during the Manheim Community Library’s Teen Chopped Challenge on June 25.

The library took a page out of Food Network’s book with this event for children ages 11 to 18. Part of the library’s summer reading program for the second year, it was held at Teen Central, 15 S. Wolf St., Manheim.

“It’s great that we can partner with the library to host this program. We provide meals for some of our own programs so we have a kitchen. Plus we’re located close to the library,” said Teen Central’s director Janelle Heying.

Janelle Harris prepares an appetizer during the Manheim Community Library’s Teen Chopped Challenge. Photos by Rochelle Shenk.

Five teens competed in the event. “The teens who participate in the Teen Chopped Challenge are asked to take on adult responsibilities in the kitchen. They must work as a team and listen to one another’s ideas as they work under a strict time limit, said youth librarian Colleen Gergely, “The teens need to be creative and think outside the box, due to the odd pairings of our mystery ingredients. The maturity and ingenuity of our teens is remarkable.”


Zach Jerchau chops spinach for the appetizer he’s creating as part of the Manheim Community Library’s Teen Chopped Challenge.

Their cooking experience spanned a wide range. Janelle Harris, who doesn’t have experience cooking, said her mom encouraged her to enter the competition.

“I like a challenge,” the 16-year-old said.

Zach Jerchau said he’s done some cooking with his family. The 14-year-old said there are a total of seven people in his family. “I like to cook-breakfast is my favorite meal to make. This contest will be a challenge since I usually follow recipes and here I’ll have to get a bit creative with ingredients,” he explained.

Three other competitors-Katelyn Citko, Emma Johnston and Brianna Sauder-formed a team they named The Disaster. All three are 17-year-old rising seniors at Manheim Central High School. Citko enjoys baking, while Johnston and Sauder have some experience cooking. “We wanted to do new things this summer. We’ve tried a dance class. We learned a bit of tap, ballet and jazz as part of a musical theater workshop,” Citko said, “We heard about this event and though it would be fun.”

The teens had a half-hour each to create an appetizer and a dessert using items in their baskets. The teens could also use ingredients such as butter, honey, bread crumbs, salsa, and limes and lemons from a “pantry.”

While the competitors were busy cooking in the kitchen, family members and friends were there to support their efforts. First the teens created the appetizer, and while that was being judged, they cleaned up the work space and prepared for the dessert challenge.

The Disaster team captured first place with their appetizer with Jerchau placing second and Harris placing third. For the second round of competition Jerchau and Harris teamed up. Gergely and the other judges declared the dessert challenge to be a tie between the two teams.

The teen chefs received prizes that included a cake decoration kit, citrus squeezer, timer and a whisk. Prizes and food items were provided by Giant Food Stores, sponsor of the event. Kilene Knitter, Giant Food Stores regional nutrition specialist, worked with Gergely to select food items for the competition. During the event she also shared information about the items with competitors and served as one of the judges.

The library will host a second Teen Chopped Challenge at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 6. Teens are asked to register through the events calendar at manheimlibrary.org.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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