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South Colonie cafeteria creation earns kudos

Colonie Central High School has built a reputation for producing award-winning graduates. After all, you are what you eat.

Just ask the high school cafeteria staff. Their latest south of the border kitchen creation finished in the Top 10 among recipes entered in a national taste test this school year sponsored by South Colonie meat vendor JTM Food Group of Ohio.

The recipe was submitted by CCHS head cook Sharon Newell and food service employee Lisa Quinn, who like most chefs, are always trying to prepare something different to put on the tray each day.

"The students get tired of the same old thing all of the time," Newell said. "So we started fooling around with some ingredients we had, and before you knew it, the Taco Pocket was born."

The two used frozen pizza shells to create the pocket, and stuffed them with commodities they had on hand like shredded cheese, salsa, canned corn and chili powder. Then, of course, they added the prepared and seasoned taco meat supplied by the JTM vendor.

Like any inventor, first they made a few "prototypes" of their culinary concoction as a cafeteria a la carte item so they could try them out on a small test group of students and staff. The students' reaction was overwhelming. "We couldn't believe how much they liked it," Quinn said. "I mean they really, really liked it. You never know what's going to catch on."

With that strong endorsement, the two entered the Taco-Pocket recipe in JTM's national competition. "The toughest part was coming up with a name," Quinn said. "So we decided to keep it simple."

An in-house committee of JTM marketing and culinary professionals chose the Top 10 recipes among the hundreds submitted based on originality, creativity and "kid acceptance." The 10 recipes were posted on the company Web site where the public was asked to vote for its favorite.

The results of the online vote accounted for 50 percent of the total decision. The other 50 percent came from results of an in-house taste test where each recipe was prepared by JTM corporate chefs and judged on taste, appearance, aroma, texture and creativity.

For finishing in the Top 10, Colonie Central High School was awarded a plaque and $350, which will be used toward professional development for the food service staff.

As for their award-winning creation, the Taco Pockets will make a special appearance in the a la carte line from time to time.

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