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Super Bowl Legacy Fund Donates $75,000 at Youth Iron Chef Event

Posted Oct 14, 2017

Aspiring chefs took part in a night of food and fun at Aria Event Center on Tuesday to benefit hundreds of youth.

The Youth Iron Chef event was part of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund’s yearlong initiative to give back to various Minnesota communities before the state hosts Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4.

Tuesday night’s event was the 36th week of giving back, and the donation was a big one.

The Legacy Fund donated a $75,000 grant to Culinary and Wellness Services for Minneapolis Public Schools, and the money was used to buy a second food truck for the program.

MPS Culinary and Wellness Services Director Bertrand Weber said the grant will allow almost 1,000 children to be served lunch in the summer, almost double the capacity of the current summer food program. 

“The average person is not aware of how many kids during the summer are in dire need of meals,” Weber said. “Without a summer meal program, they would go days without real food … or their options would be bags of potato chips.

“It’s a much higher need than people realize,” Weber added.

Dana Nelson, the Vice President of Legacy and Community Partnerships for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, said the group is pleased to help expand access to nutritious food for young people.

“It was on their wish list, for sure,” Nelson said. “When you think about access to food, this is about bringing food to schools and communities, in particular in the evenings and during the summer. 

“When kids are out of school, they may not have a lot of food and really rely on schools to get that food,” Nelson added. “This is about that gap time.” 

While those who attended the festivities could sample food from the truck, the real action took place in a ballroom inside the Aria.

With an aroma of scrumptious food in the air, eight teams consisting of four people had an hour to whip up a dish to impress a six-panel member of judges.

The groups consisted of a two local students with a love of cooking, a local chef and someone with ties to the Minnesota Vikings.

In the end, students Miguel Angel Lopez Zurita from Anwatin Middle School, Frances Levy from South High School, local chef Jorge Guzman and former Vikings punter Greg Coleman teamed up to make a turkey stew that earned first place.

Weber and Geji McKinney-Banks, the Vikings Director of Food Services, were both part of the judging panel.

The winning dish featured a stew of turkey, peppers, tomatoes, jalapenos, paste, garlic, onion, cilantro and spices. The group ladled it on top of a bed of quinoa that rested above a tortilla. Melted cheese topped the stew.

“I didn’t want that one to go, so I snatched it back and tried to hide it,” McKinney-Banks said after trying the dish. “Absolutely, I knew it [was the winner] right away. They did a great job.”

Miguel and Frances said they got their love of cooking from their families.

“I cook because it reminds me of my culture, especially my grandmother,” Miguel said. “I always used to watch my grandmother cook, and I’m never going to forget that.

“It always gives me a lot of pride, and I always want to be No. 1,” Miguel added. “It’s a way to stay close to my culture and who I am.”

Added Frances: “My mom is a chef … I’m inspired by her to cook. I’ve always been into food. I’m pretty proud [about winning], it was exciting.”

Vikings center Pat Elflein and safety Anthony Harris also participated, as did former wide receiver Leo Lewis, running back Rickey Young and a trio of Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders.

Elflein and Harris said they were glad to make a foray into the world of cooking.

“It was an awesome time. I got to meet two young kids that love cooking and are just great people. They’re really driven,” Elflein said. “I’m an average chef. I cook meats — steaks, burgers, chicken.

“But these kids had it going on,” Elflein added. “They definitely have a bright future in culinary arts.”

Added Harris: “I’m a decent chef … with kind of limited dishes. After [this event], I want to expand a little bit more … maybe make my own tomato sauce and things like that. You usually don’t see kids at these ages that into cooking, but I was impressed with how good they were at chopping and using a knife. It was like they had been doing it for years, and that was exciting to see the passion and how excited they were.”

While Elflein said his group did most of the cooking, he managed to find ways to make sure their dish was up to par. They took second place.

“I found my helping hand every now and then,” Elflein said. “I was tasting a lot … that was a huge help.”

The Legacy Fund has given out more than $2.5 million in grants. With less than four months to go until Super Bowl LII, Nelson said the group plans to eventually reach the $5 million mark.