Fresh Picks Café Congratulates Jalapeno Hotties of Brattleboro Union High School, “Lively Local” Winners at Vermont Junior Iron Chef Competition

Ashley Maguire is a senior at Brattleboro Union High School and student in Sandy Cormier’s Food Fundamentals class. A competitor in last month’s 8th Annual Vermont Junior Iron Chef competition, she agrees with her teammates that it’s important to eat healthy, local foods when ever possible. 

She explains: “Our group has always felt it’s important to eat local foods and be aware of what’s good for you. The Junior Iron Chef competition was a great opportunity to get the word out.”

jalapeno-hotties.jpgFresh Picks Café, the school division of Café Services®, is proud to announce that Ashley and her teammates, the Jalapeno Hotties, were among the 12 winning teams at this year’s competition on March 21 at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, Vermont.

Their prize recipe, vegetarian Pad Thai, earned the Lively Local award for best highlighting Vermont foods. Other awards were granted to teams that demonstrated exemplary teamwork and professionalism, and the most creative use of color and texture in crowd-pleasing meals.

jalapeno-hotties-vt-state.jpgThe Jalapeno Hotties were among 260 students from 61 schools that showcased their culinary skills for a lively crowd of about 1,000. On April 8, they served their award-winning recipe to lawmakers at the Vermont Statehouse.

“It was a really great experience, especially because it was the first time our school had ever won,” says Ashley. “It was fun to see our coach so excited.”

“This was my fourth time leading a team, and I could not be more excited or proud,” says coach Sandy Cormier, who in addition to Food Fundamentals teaches an Advanced Food course at Brattleboro Union. “We couldn’t have done it without the support of Café Services, our principal, Steve Perrin, and the Brattleboro school district.”

Fresh Picks Café sponsored the Jalapeno Hotties and three other teams from the Brattleboro, Vergennes and Windsor, Vermont school districts by paying the entry fees and providing team uniforms.

John Ayer, Fresh Picks Café Food Service Director for the Brattleboro district, served as assistant coach of the Jalapeno Hotties. He helped the students develop their award-winning recipe in accordance with contest guidelines, giving suggestions and serving as a taste tester.

“The competition teaches the students a lot about cooking and how to be creative with whatever local food is available when they’re preparing for the competition,” he explains. “It also reinforces the Fresh Picks Cafe mission to make kids more aware of where their food comes from and how their choices affect their health and the environment.”

peter-shumlin-jalapeno-hotties.jpgThe honorary tasting at the Statehouse was just one of a couple of prizes won by the Jalapeno Hotties, who along with Ashley, included Kayla Parro, Sara Gauthier, Melanie Smith and Yaquelin Mendez. All were given the chance to apply for scholarships at the New England Culinary Institute. Winners in the middle school division were awarded new kitchen tools.

“The Junior Iron Chef competition inspires students to connect with the community by helping to promote the value of using local food,” says Sandy. “It’s a valuable goal and one that I share with Fresh Picks Café.”

To learn more about Vermont Junior Iron Chef and the 2015 winning recipes and teams, visit