The National Restaurant Association announced the winners of the Kids Recipe Challenge, a new initiative showcasing restaurants’ culinary ingenuity for creating healthful menu options for children. Created with founding partner McCormick For Chefs, the Food Away From Home business of McCormick & Company, the contest recognizes delicious and nutritious recipes from children’s menus at restaurants and foodservice establishments nationwide.

The Kids Recipe Challenge involved an “industry tested, kid approved” approach, with a panel of industry professionals selecting finalists and approximately 30 children choosing the winners at an event at the McCormick World of Flavors store in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Saturday. Kids chose the following inventive restaurants and foodservice companies as winners:
−Qdoba Mexican Grill’s Lil’ Pulled Pork Naked Burrito (Multi-unit company with more than 20 units): A Lil’ Pulled Pork Burrito is a burrito served without the flour tortilla in a bowl, and includes cilantro-lime rice, hand-shredded pulled pork, fresh pico de gallo, and roasted chile corn salsa with a side of applesauce and low-fat milk. Qdoba, with more than 600 locations in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada, is headquartered outside of Denver.
−Boston Lobster Feast’s Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti Squash (Independent restaurant or company with fewer than 20 units): Created by Corporate Executive Chef Keith R. Esbin, the meal is a healthier alternative to traditional chicken parmesan and is served with spaghetti squash to convert even the pickiest eaters. Boston Lobster Feast restaurants are located in the Orlando, Florida, area.
−Chartwells School Dining Services Chix-N-Cheddar Snappy Jalapeño Wrap (Contract Managed Food Service): The meal includes a whole grain flour tortilla filled with chicken and black bean puree, topped with cheddar cheese with a spicy ranch dressing along with dark leafy greens, fresh jalapenos, and served with fresh salsa.  Chartwells School Dining Services, a division of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Compass Group, provides dining services for over 550 school districts, comprising over 6,000 separate elementary, middle, and high schools nationwide.
−Tim Horton Children’s Foundation’s Yum! Yum! Chip Chicken (Independent Noncommercial Food Service): A new twist on traditional chicken fingers, coating them with lightly salted potato chips and served with low-fat dressing, sweet potatoes, and a side of broccoli. The foundation operates camps for economically disadvantaged children throughout Canada and the U.S.
“Across the restaurant and foodservice community, we’ve seen tremendous excitement with our first-ever Kids Recipe Challenge,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “We congratulate our winners on their innovative and healthful meals that earned the important ‘thumbs up’ from kids.”
“McCormick is thrilled to celebrate these ‘kid-approved’ healthful dishes with the industry,” says Megan Ford, vice president, branded food service, McCormick & Company. “Inspiring healthy choices is so important to McCormick and our customers, and the Kids Recipe Challenge is a terrific opportunity for us to showcase those in the industry who are combining great taste with good nutrition to create healthful kids’ menu options."
To participate in the Kids Recipe Challenge, restaurant and foodservice operators submitted recipes from their children’s menus that meet the nutrition guidelines from the National Restaurant Association’s award-winning Kids LiveWell program.
A panel of industry professionals selected two finalists per category. Those panelists include:
− Judson Todd Allen, CEO executive chef, Healthy Infused Cuisine;
− Jessie Coffey, registered dietitian & licensed medical nutrition therapist, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics;
− Sandra Ford, SNS, president, School Nutrition Association;
− Molly A. McCloskey, Maryland director, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign;
− Patti Montague, CEO, School Nutrition Association;
− Xavier Teixido, owner of Harry's Savoy Grill and a Trustee of National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Board;
− Bret Thorn, senior food editor, Nation’s Restaurant News;
− Dr. Janey Thornton, deputy under secretary food, nutrition, and consumer services, USDA; &
− Michael Ty, CEC, AAC, national president, American Culinary Federation.
Kids Recipe Challenge winners will be recognized by Sweeney, Ford, and celebrity chef Marc Murphy at the 2013 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago next month.
The initiative launched in July 2011 in collaboration with Healthy Dining to help parents and children find healthful menu options when dining out. To date, 130 brands representing 40,000 restaurants participate in the program.
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