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Top Chefs tackle school lunch

June 24, 2010 |  1:35 pm

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Attention on childhood nutrition has been mounting recently: A growing number of school gardens have been planted, alternative lunch programs have been kick-started, the first lady has planted a White House garden and the Obama administration has proposed the Child Nutrition Act. Last night, "Top Chef" jumped on board to take a stand, too.

Sam Kass, who works the White House kitchen along with Cristeta Comeford, served as the guest judge. He's certainly familiar with the subject matter, since first lady Michelle Obama is a champion for the cause.

But before tackling the big issue, the chefs hit the quickfire, where they were challenged to make sandwiches, Siamese style. The contestants were conjoined by aprons that allowed each of them to use only one hand. The task seemed more suited to a team-building seminar than to cooking, but watching the chefs fumble around was entertaining.

Clearly not aware that bleached Wonder bread is not only devoid of nutrition but also disgusting, Jacqueline and Steve opted to make a boring chicken and avocado sandwich on white, while Alex screeched in fear of Tim slicing his hand off when cutting some bread for their croque madame. Some of the more tantalizing offerings included Kenny and Arnold's curry-rubbed chicken with honey, sambal, cucumber, mint, dill and cilantro and Angelo and Tracy's winning Thai-style flounder sandwich with siracha mayo and pickled red onions. Team Angelo won (again!), leaving Kenny in second, a place he's all too familiar with.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs headed off to an elementary school and were given the budget of $130 for 50 students-- a treat compared with the estimated $1 per child that is allotted for ingredients in school lunches today. They were grouped in teams of four, and each person was responsible for a dish on the tray. During prep time, Kelly made it very clear that she had no intention of working as a team, which stirred up some classic catty drama with Arnold and the rest of the gang.

There were some really dopey choices for the kids' menu -- i.e. Amanda using a bulk of her team's budget to buy sherry for her chicken instead of vegetables, Angelo's team using only one dinky slice of celery for their veggie offering, and Ed making a sweet potato puree that was entirely too spicy.

Jacqueline, who was seen earlier in the episode cooking her brekky with an entire block of butter, decided that since her banana pudding was too starchy, adding 2 pounds of sugar would be the solution. Weren't we trying to ameliorate childhood obesity? That's like instant diabetes!

The judges decided that mistake was irreparable and sent Jacqueline and her sacks of sugar packin'. Kelly and her carnitas broke Angelo's undefeated status, crushing his dream of perfection and thoroughly ticking off the rest of her team. 

-- Krista Simmons

Related:

Calorie limits in school lunches are recommended

Congress may bolster school lunch nutrition

Food politics in L.A.: Hungry for Change

Follow me on Twitter @kristasimmons

Photo credit: NBC UMV

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