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Kids Rock the Kitchen with Chopsticks & Beyond
   2014-12-09 10:24:12    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Shen Siling

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In China, children always steal the show. Not that that's always a bad thing. For Chopsticks & Beyond's latest installment this past Saturday, it invited a crew of kids out to see how they'd handle a little friendly competition in the kitchen. Sixteen kids aged 5 to 16 came out to BCIS ready to get their hands dirty.

In accordance with the capital's dropping temperatures, jiaozi (dumplings) was the food of the day, a dish common dish in China that's particularly popular in the chilly winter months.

First, professional chef Liu Weiji from the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel demonstrated to the group how to mix up the jiaozi fillings, before getting to the arduous task of rolling out the dough and wrapping each dumpling.

To begin, each contestant was to create 20 dumplings, one of which would be scrutinized for its artistic perfection, or lack thereof.

The children sprinted towards their ingredients and began stuffing handfuls of ground pork and green onions into their bowls. At their stations, they mixed and mashed their fillings to a pulp. Then they got to work on the green, red and white doughs, slicing off chunks and rolling them flat; many contestants managed to get the dough flat enough to wrap jiaozi, but not quite flat enough to be delicious. Parents were allowed to help out the children aged up to seven, but it was still the children who completed most of the task.

The 30 minute time line was diamond tight, and the goal of creating 20 jiaozi was hardly accomplished by anyone. But time waits for no one, so the completed jiaozi were scooped up to be boiled and the next task ensued.

This time, contestants were to use a variety of vegetables to create a work of edible art representing China. Impressively, the group went to work without any apparent struggle about how to deal with the assignment. The visual works were varied and diverse in their compositions, subject material, methods as well as in their rationales.

Bridget Leibold's piece represented a Buddhist temple, allowing her to discuss the complexity of constructing such an edifice. "If you wobble this, it could all fall apart," she added, referencing the many temples in China that have reached a dilapidated state.

Others were less intellectual. "This is a boat and the ocean," announced a younger boy. When asked what the connection was with China, he blurted with incredulity, "There is no connection!"

By this time, the jiaozi were ready, and the public judges lined up to sample them, casting their votes by placing a sticker on the chef whose jiaozi they deemed best.

The professional judges were chef Liu, who was joined with Cuisine Magazine's Ms Luo Xiao and the head of BCIS Bill O'Hearn. They carefully eyed the artworks and reflectively chewed the dumplings in order to choose the children with the best aesthetic and culinary combination.

Li Xinchen seized the prize for the 5-7 year old category. Alick Galvez snagged a prize for the 8-10ers. And Choi Jaeyoo beat out the others in the 11-15 age group.

The overall winner, as chosen by the public judges was Alick, who's dumplings were tasty, and whose artwork focused on the number eight which represents auspiciousness in China.

The prizes were boxes of fresh vegetables as provided by Tootoo Organic Farms, which may possibly have been more appreciated by parents than the kids themselves; but the smiles on the winners' faces only belied this thought.

Chef Liu Weiji instructs young chefs about the finer points of making jiaozi at Chopsticks & Beyond's Kids Rock the Kitchen event. Photo taken December 6, 2014. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

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