Forty minutes to win it: Junior wins at 4-H national food competition

One basket, a few ingredients, 40 minutes on the clock. With all of these things, a team of three to five members must create a dish, a cost analysis, a list of its nutritional value, and present the final dish to a panel of judges. Through Texas 4-H, junior Hannah Czajkowski has been given the opportunity to compete in the 4-H Food Challenge and even make it as far as the State 4-H Food Challenge Contest, and winning the National 4-H Food Challenge Contest in October with two other team members.

Hannah has participated in the 4-H Food Challenge since its early days as a new competition in the organization.

“I started competing in the food challenge about six years ago when it was first created,” Hannah said. “The contest started in our district, and we were asked to pilot the contest.”

Even though the food contest is still relatively new, 4-H groups all around the United States, including those in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, participate and compete at competitions like the National 4-H Food Challenge Contest.

“The food challenge has been one of the fastest growing contests in 4-H,” Texas 4-H director Courtney Dodd said. “Starting in Texas, the contest quickly caught the interest of other 4-H programs around the nation.”

With the time constraint of 40 minutes, the pressure of the contest can be one of the most difficult things to overcome in the competition.

“The most challenging part is trying to keep it cool and get everything done in 40 minutes,” Hannah said. “When you’re trying to make something so big and intricate, you have to be careful with your time management to make sure you get everything done.”

Even though the food contest has its challenges, Hannah enjoys competing with her friends and team members under the challenging circumstances.

“My favorite part about the contest is getting together and being creative with my team to try to create a dish,” Hannah said. “The contest makes you realize that even if you only have a certain set and limit of ingredients, you can make anything out of it.”

Hannah has learned many things about herself, from self-confidence to finding her passion in cooking. She plans to pursue this by studying nutritional sciences at Texas A&M.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is confidence in myself and public speaking,” Hannah said. “I’ve also learned to lead my team in everything that we do and give the best presentation possible.”

Others around Hannah have noticed her growth through competing in the Food Challenge contest.

“It’s been a great experience to see Hannah grow in the food challenge,” Dodd said. “I’ve witnessed her working diligently to learn what she needed to succeed and work with her team to get it done. She and her team set goals for what they wanted to accomplish, and they got it done.”

To get involved and compete in the food challenge, students must join 4-H where they can learn about all the opportunities the organization can provide. 4-H is open to anyone between third and twelfth grade, and clubs in the area can be found by contacting the Brazos County Extension Office at 979-823-0129.