Student's recipe takes him to D.C.

Jul. 05, 2013 @ 01:44 PM

A 12-year-old Chapel Hill resident’s recipe for spring rolls will take him to the White House Tuesday for a Kids’ “State Dinner,” which will actually be a celebration of healthy lunch options.

Vijay Dey of Smith Middle School was North Carolina’s winner for the “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge,” a nationwide contest for 8- to 12-year-olds.

According a press release, the contest received more than 1,300 recipes. The challenge, in its second year, was created by Epicurious, a food website. First Lady Michelle Obama will host the “State Dinner” at the White House, where she’ll welcome the 54 winners.

Vijay said that when his mom told him about the challenge, he had recently prepared his grandfather’s spring rolls for a school project on traditional family food, so he decided to use the same recipe for the contest.

“My grandpa is a great chef and he likes to make spring rolls, and they’re very good,” Vijay said. “They have a lot of vegetables for the healthy part.”

Since his grandfather was in China, Vijay said his mom helped him prepare the rolls, which contain cabbage, chicken, bean sprouts, ginger, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, scallions, soy sauce, vegetable oil, sesame oil, salt, pepper and corn starch, all wrapped together, Vijay said.

Vijay’s mom, Mei Dey, pointed out that his spring rolls are not fried, which is how many people think of spring rolls, she said.

Mei Dey, who read about the challenge in a Morehead Planetarium newsletter two weeks before the deadline, said that Vijay had to make the rolls, photograph them, and turn in the picture and recipe, along with something written about the recipe. She said that Vijay wrote about how he misses his grandfather when he makes the rolls.

Vijay said he thinks eating healthy is important and pointed to obesity as a reason.

“At school we read ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma,’ and it talked about…how the life expectancy might actually drop from last generation to this generation because of rises in obesity,” Vijay said. “So I think it’s important for people to eat healthy.”

According to a report from the 2011/2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, about

31.4 percent of children 10-17 years of age in North Carolina were overweight or obese.

Vijay said his family eats healthy and watches sugar intake because his dad’s side of the family is prone to diabetes.

Mei Dey said she hopes this experience encourages Vijay to cook more and help make meals at home.

Vijay said he makes breakfast sometimes, or he’ll help with one aspect of a meal, like rolling pizza dough. He is particularly fond of duck, he said.

“In general, he’s a pretty healthy eater,” Mei Dey said. “I think after this event he will be more conscientious on the food choices.”

Vijay said he’s looking forward to visiting the White House since he didn’t get to tour it on a previous trip to D.C.

“I was excited because when we went to Washington, D.C. once, we got into the Capitol, but I was curious why we couldn’t go to the White House,” he said. “My mom told me it was really hard to get in because of security purposes.”

“I guess I’m just excited about seeing what it’s like inside the White House,” he said.

Mei Dey, who will travel to D.C. with Vijay, said that the winners and parents will also visit the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to see Julia Child’s Kitchen and the museum’s food exhibit. Also, they’ll see the presidential garden that Michelle Obama started.

“They tell me at last year’s event, the president also dropped by,” Mei Dey said. “So I’m hoping I might also get to see the president.”

“It’s gonna be fun,” Vijay said.