Rowan Bean had an experience last month that few get to have. The nine-year-old from Seward got to meet America’s first lady.
Rowan, accompanied by her parents, attended the 2013 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Kid’s State Dinner at the White House as Alaska’s winner of the challenges recipe contest.
“It was pretty amazing,” Rowan said the evening after. “My favorite part was taking a picture with the first lady.”
Rowan was selected for her Alaska Rockfish and spot prawn ceviche with mango. Ceviche is a dish of raw fish or seafood marinated in citrus juice, with the acid in the citrus juices coagulating the proteins in the seafood.
She developed the recipe with dad, Erik Slater, an executive chef for two of Seward’s seasonal lodges.
Rowan was raised learning the art of cooking with both her mom and dad and she love cooking at home.
“She naturally gravitated toward cooking,” Slater said, adding that Rowan also helped him develop the kid’s menu at one of his restaurants.
Slater was encouraged by a friend to get his daughter to develop a recipe for the 2013 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. Erik said Rowan was excited about the contest.
“We had time before the restaurants opened to sit down and work on it for about a week,” he said.
Rowan also enjoyed the experience.
“I really like helping my dad and cooking with him,” she said. “I really wanted to do it.”
She made the recipe several times, having her mom and friends taste test it.
“They really liked it,” she said.
According to a press release, the 2013 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, presented by cooking website Epicurious, Michelle Obama, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, invited children ages 8 to 12 nationwide to submit healthy and delicious lunch recipes as a part of Mrs. Obama’s Lets Move initiative.
More than 1,300 recipes were submitted across the country with 54 winners selected to represent all U.S. states, three territories and the District of Columbia.
Rowan’s ceviche was selected for Alaska and the family won a trip to Washington, D.C.
“I have never been to Washington, D.C. so I am excited to go, and to meet Michelle Obama,” she said before her trip.
The family boarded a flight to the nation’s capital on Independence Day. Before the main event, Rowan met the other state winners; the group toured the Smithsonian Museum, had a pizza party, visited the Lincoln Memorial, attended at Nationals League game and prepared for the big day.
And finally the day she had been waiting for arrived.
On July 9, Rowan put on the dress her mom picked out, because she said it was “totally a Michelle Obama dress,” and they attended the 2013 Kid’s State Dinner at the White House, hosted by the first lady.
When they arrived, Rowan and her parents attended a reception on the main floor. Rowan said she and other kids were offered strawberry, pineapple or kiwi waters by the many butlers walking around. During the reception, visitors were able to wander through the famous red, green and blue rooms.
“It was marvelous,” Slater said.
During the event, each child and their parents had a meet and greet with the Michelle Obama. Rowan said it was a great moment.
“When I walked up to her, she complimented me on my dress,” she said.
After the reception, the group was off to the State Dinner where they each had a name card at their table and began to dine on a few of the winning recipes served on 2008 china from the George W. Bush administration. They listened to Michelle Obama’s speech, special guest singer Rachel Crow and last year’s winner.
“It was great,” Slater said.
Rowan recalled the menu that consisted of spring rolls, zucchini bread and cauliflower crust pizza. But Rowan did say the best surprise was the president crashing the party and giving a short impromptu speech.
Epicurious.com streamed the event live on its website.
“For you guys to actually come up with recipes that are healthy and tasty and to do it in a way that helps to contribute to spreading the word about healthy eating among your peers, that’s a really big deal,” President Barack Obama said to the group. “We are very proud of you. We’re very impressed with everything you’ve done.”
Slater said the president’s arrival to the party was a great surprise.
“He went out of his way to talk to each person,” he said.
Rowan said when she returns to Alaska her plans are to cook more and teach her friends about eating healthy.
She also has plans to more food contests, yet Slater wonders what other contests she would enter with a better prize.
“It is gonna be hard to top this one,” he said with a chuckle.
A full list of winners and recipes can be found at http://www.recipechallenge.epicurious.com
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org