Five fourth and fifth graders from West Hartford are getting national attention for a recipe they have been working on.
The students' culinary creation is a semifinalist in the USDA's "Recipes for Healthy Kids" contest.
In December, the students started working with Hunter Morton, the executive chef from Max Downtown, and decided to enter the "legume" category of the contest.
The parameters were clear, but far from simple. The recipe had to be healthy, affordable enough for a school cafeteria budget and, most importantly, it had to taste good.
"We made it a few times and adjusted it each time, and finally we got what we wanted," said Remie Hochman, a fourth-grade student at the Eric G. Norfeldt School in West Hartford.
The young chefs settled on a combination of carrots, red pepper, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, black beans, cheese and the secret ingredient -- quinoa -- a nutritious, South American grain.
"We chose quinoa because it had more flavor to it than brown rice," said Noa Boyd, a fifth grader from the Lloyd Bugbee School, in West Hartford.
That concoction is baked in a flour tortilla to make the "Fiesta Wrap." You can see the recipe here.
Last week, the students presented their work to a three-judge panel of experts from the USDA who made the trip to West Hartford. On the line is a trip to Dallas, Texas, $3,000 and a chance to cook alongside the White House chefs.
While the judges ultimately decide whether the Connecticut kids make it to the finals, the true judges are classmates in school cafeterias.
The team has done samplings at most of the West Hartford elementary schools and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Regardless of whether the "Fiesta Wrap takes these five to the finals, Charter Oak International Academy fifth grader, Cole Canarie, said he and his new friends are now connected to the kitchen forever.
"It's fun to cook, I like to cook. It kind of gives you a sense of independence, you know what you're making and you made it," Cole said.