John Purcell/Recorder staff

From left, Lynch Literacy Academy students Jahn Lopez, Jerome Varon, Pablo Diaz and Jose Torres will be competing as a team during the Junior Iron Chef competition to be held at the SUNY Cobleskill campus on Saturday, April 1.

By JOHN PURCELL

Recorder News Staff

Preparing poached eggs likely isn’t a common skill for even some of the more experienced home cooks, but there’s at least a pair of seventh-grade students from Amsterdam who already have the delicate task in their repertoire.

A group of four students from Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy have been preparing for the Junior Iron Chef competition to be held at the State University of New York at Cobleskill campus on Saturday, April 1. Theresa Featherstone, a family and consumer teacher at Lynch, has been coaching the team, fittingly called “The Eggsperts,” which includes seventh-grade students Pablo Diaz, Jahn Lopez and Jose Torres and sixth-grade student Jerome Varon.

Pablo said he taught Jahn how to make a poached egg, which Jahn admitted took some practice before nailing down the technique.

“I broke a lot of eggs,” Jahn said. “I literally went through the whole carton.”

The poached egg is just one of elements making up a cheesy eggs florentine dish students will serve to Junior Iron Chef judges. The dish includes sauteed mushrooms, potato slices and spinach placed onto a toasted whole wheat baguette with the poached egg and tomato slice, and topped off low-fat cheese sauce.

Susan Stoya, director of Secondary Instruction for Greater Amsterdam School District, admitted she hasn’t even cooked a poached egg.

Stoya attended the students’ practice session Wednesday after school as the team made some final tweaks before the competition. Stoya said she was “very impressed” with the students’ skills, from the timing of how to cook eggs to going onto the next phase with little direction.

“We’re always trying to widen the variety of after school activities students can participate in, so we can really reach a lot of students interests,” Stoya said. “This was something that Theresa added that’s been a great success.”

Pablo said his mom spurred his interest in cooking, which has become a passion for him and something he really enjoys. Pablo said he also likes baking.

Jahn said when he was 8 years old he learned how to cook after his mom cut three of her fingers, which required her to have surgery. This led him to getting some cooking lessons while his mom recovered.

“She couldn’t really move her hand, so I had to help her with everything,” Jahn said. “She taught me how to cook and helped me along the way.”

Jerome said his mom also taught him how to cook, and he often helps her cook dinner. Jerome said he has cooked rice, macaroni and cheese chicken and other dishes.

The four boys agreed the best part about participating in the competition working together with each other and making new friends.

Featherstone said the boys have built a lot of camaraderie and are working great together as a team.

She said participating on the team is a very enriching experience for students, which could guide interested students toward a possible career in culinary arts.

The teams have consisted of five students the prior two years of the event, but this year the rules were changed to only allow four students to participate on a team. Featherstone said there often is more students interested than can participate.

Featherstone said Pablo and Jahn had each asked her during the beginning of the school year if he could be a part of the Junior Iron Chef team.

This will be the third year Lynch has participated in the competition, with students on the team changing annually. Each year Lynch has improved its standings in the competition. The first year it received third place and last year was awarded second place.

There will be 14 teams competing in the middle school division with the students coming from Montgomery, Fulton, Schoharie, Herkimer, Oneida, Otsego, Delaware and Chenango counties. This will be the third time Lynch participating in the competition.

The event is sponsored by SUNY Cobleskill, the Bassett Research Institute’s 5-2-1-0 Initiative, and the Rural Health Education Network of Schoharie, Otsego, and Montgomery Counties.