Nine-year-old winning chef

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Children at Camp Louise, an overnight Jewish camp in western Maryland, feasted on fish chowder Monday in a recipe created by fellow camper and now award-winning chef Madeleine Steppel.

Junior chef Steppel, who will begin fourth grade at Great Falls Elementary School soon, is the Virginia winner in The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. On Aug. 20, she will join winners from the 49 other states, as well as Washington, D.C., and the four U.S. territories at a Kid’s State Dinner and a tour of the White House hosted by first lady Michelle Obama.


Her dish, fish chowder and citrus salad with strawberries and dried cranberries, was served to more than 600 campers and staff. The 9-year-old junior chef from Reston donned a white chef’s coat, hair net and gloves as she helped in the kitchen that day. She peeled potatoes, stirred the roux and cut up strawberries and tomatoes.

Her recipe, which was created to feed four, was enlarged by the camp staff. Madeleine told Andi Abrams, assistant director of operations, that she couldn’t believe how large the tilt skillet was and how much margarine was used.

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In her entry, Madeleine explained that she decided to make a chowder since milk is Virginia’s state beverage.?She noted she was inspired by Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-Va.) recipe for creamless asparagus soup, which she found in the Celebrate Virginia Cookbook. Her other inspiration was her favorite television show, the Food Network’s Chopped.

“My chowder is gluten-free, nut-free, kosher and halal,” she wrote in her entry.


Her mother, Debra, said she and Madeleine have been cooking together for about seven years, and that they often use ingredients from their own garden.

“She basically epitomizes the Michelle Obama garden,”?Debra Steppel said.

Her recipe was chosen by a panel of judges that included Sam Kass, White House assistant chef; chef Jose Andres; Marshall and Alex Reid, authors of Portion Size Me; Epicurious editor-in-Chief Tanya Steel; and representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education.

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