Juneau boy scores White House trip for healthy dish

Community Charter School fifth-grader among national contest winners
Aaron Blust. Photo courtesy the Blust Family

Aaron Blust whipped up a salmon dish that hit the spot. Now he and his family are headed to Washington, D.C.

Blust, 10, is one of the winners of the national Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a contest organized by Epicurious.com, the United States Department of Education, the United States Department of Agriculture and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” health initiative.

This summer, parents of children between the ages of 8 and 12 from all over the country were encouraged to send in their kids’ original recipes for a nutritious, delicious lunch.

After judging by a panel that included White House assistant chef Sam Kass, famous restaurateur and chef José Andrés, and representatives from the federal government, a winner was selected from each state, as well as from the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories.

Alaska will be represented by Blust at the Kids State Dinner, which Michelle Obama will host at the White House early next week.

“We’re actually going to be at the White House … during the first day of school,” said Blust’s mother, Jeannie Monk.

Monk said she found out about the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge earlier this summer.

“He loves to cook, so when I saw it, I thought it would be something fun for him,” Monk said.

Blust, a rising fifth-grader at Juneau Community Charter School whose other hobbies include fishing and gardening, wanted to make a fish dish. When he looked in the freezer, he said, he saw some sockeye and king salmon.

“We decided that we should do some sort of wrap, so we went to the store and got some ingredients and decided to try some different ideas,” Blust said.

As they experimented, with the help of a few friends who helped taste-test the dishes, Monk said a teriyaki twist on the wrap emerged as a favorite.

“When we found one we liked, we then tried to write down the recipe,” said Monk.

Blust added, “Smoked salmon is what we used, but we said that you can use any other fish.”

The young chef then had to submit a picture to go along with his recipe.

“He kind of got a chance to practice being a food photographer,” Monk said.

Blust’s Alaska Teriyaki Salmon Wrap was evidently a success with the critics, because last month, Monk and Blust were notified that he was a winner — and that they were D.C. bound, with their hotel and airfare expenses covered. They leave Friday.

Blust said he is “pretty excited” to go to the Kids State Dinner and meet Michelle Obama.

“I think it’s going to be pretty cool,” Blust added.

Monk said there will be several “food-related activities for the kids while they’re there,” including a tour of Julia Child’s kitchen at the National Museum of American History, as well as a tour of the White House vegetable garden.

According to the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge website, more than 1,200 recipes were submitted from around the country. The number of entries by state or territory is not given.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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