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Medical Lake students' chili is one hot item

High school duo concocts recipe, will vie for national honors in Atlanta


Paul Delaney

Photo by Paul Delaney Medical Lake High School classmates Calvin Ross and Kaylee Thompson recently put their heads together and came up with a Vegan chili recipe that will compete for national honors later this summer.

A class project at Medical Lake High School has gotten out of control. But in a very good way, it appears.

Sophomore Kaylee Thompson and Calvin Ross, a freshman, have concocted a Vegan chili recipe that has likely exceeded expectations, having won both regional and state competition.

Now the members of Maureen Fanion's Family Consumer Science class will take it to national competition in Atlanta, Ga. from June 26-July 3.

The project was part of a first-period career choices class. It gained some local notoriety at the May 22 meeting of the Medical Lake School Board. The students presented the idea to a room full of board members, administrators and guests who gathered at the high school library. Everyone who wished could sample the product, and many did.

Why chili? It seemed to fit well into the Vegan theme, Thompson said. "You don't have to have meat in chili."

The pair of 15-year-olds initially did market research with peers and found out their favorite food is chili. Coupled with a challenge from a national body that required the Vegan variety of the dish, Thompson and Ross practiced honing numerous skills associated with food preparation and service.

The end result was a careful collection of weighing, measuring, tasting and then doing much of it over again to get the recipe just right.

The initial offering was described as "Pretty good," from feedback received from classmates, Thompson said. "For our second prototype, we changed it up a little bit," hoping to change the taste, she added.

They worked with a common vegetable stock, not water as in the original recipe, plus corn, zucchini, beans and tomatoes. When the second edition was ready for testing it was sampled by classmates and earned a large measure of approval.

Upon completion of the many, many preliminary steps, research helped confirm they had a success as nine-out-of-10 members of the class liked the product, and would purchase it at around the suggested $3 per serving cost, Thompson said.

"If we did it again we would probably change it and take more input from the students," Thompson said.

One additional step was the creation of a nutrition facts label, the portion of all current food labeling that tells a variety of information such as fat content, cholesterol and other health-related information.

They also needed to pass Vegan certification, where earning the stamp of approval - the certified Vegan logo - is a registered trademark, similar in nature to the kosher mark, for products that do not contain animal products or byproducts and that have not been tested on animals.

Regional competition was among schools in the area. Earning a gold-medal vaulted the Medical Lake entry to state competition, where they once again secured one of the top spots among judges who selected winners in a variety of categories.

At nationals, they will bring the finished product for judging, a much less hectic situation compared to the in-class work where all the revisions and variations took place.

The project, start to finish, took about 15–20 hours, Thompson said.

They plan to produce the chili on a larger scale next school year and sell in in the student store.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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