The scene at Lowndes Grove’s Big Chef/Little Chef event was slightly reminiscent of the Top Chef Challenge during this spring’s Wine + Food Festival. Teams in chef jackets carefully plated their food under a big white tent while a hungry crowd tasted each dish and voted for a winner. But this competition was far more than a gourmet food fantasy. It was a celebration of the 10 little chefs who have each completed or are in a Louie’s Kids program, and who have collectively lost 250 pounds. These kids were matched up with 10 of Charleston’s master chefs to develop and cook a healthy dish. Their creative collaborations featured ingredients like cacao nibs, venison, and pea shoots that add flavor to a dish without empty calories.
Sean Brock’s little chef, Brian Luzier, spent the day in the McCrady’s kitchen making a low-fat version of the historic Lowcountry dish shrimp purloo. Brian suggested leaving out the okra, but he was keen on Brock’s garnish of shaved fennel, which was a new taste discovery for him. He also got a plum offer from Brock to come staige with him, should he decide to follow his current dream of being a chef.
Red Drum’s Ben Berryhill and his little chef, Jermaillia Mack, made “JJ’s no-fat, low-fat, jammin’ lasagna,” a gluten-free dish using corn tortillas instead of pasta. JJ has a gorgeous smile and a body to be proud of — she lost 23 pounds in the Louie’s Kids program Fit Club and she’s excited to be running track next year at Stahl High School. She said what she learned in Fit Club completely changed her eating habits and her lifestyle, and she’s now teaching her younger sister what she gleaned from the experience. JJ loved working with Berryhill and says he’s “awesome, majestic, and spontaneous.” He wants to one day help his little admirer get a scholarship to the Art Institute of Charleston to study cooking.
After the sun had set behind the Ashley River, a small ceremony honored all of the big and little chefs that participated. Each little chef was recognized and given a huge medal for their hard work toward reaching their fitness goals. Then the winners were announced. Second place went to Ken Vedrinski and Keyonna Jones’ hand-pulled mozzarella over a summery tomato salad. The first-place engraved cutting board went to Michelle Weaver and Chelsea White for their vegan, sugar-free chocolate avocado pudding. Chelsea not only won the competition, but she celebrated her 18th birthday. The crowd sang to her, stirring up a well of happiness and a lot of bear hugs.
Louis Yuhasz’s mission to treat childhood obesity one kid at a time is clearly working in Charleston. His nonprofit, Louie’s Kids, is the only one of its kind in the country and is starting to expand nationwide. Louie’s Kids has about 25 open spots for the 16-week program, Fit Club, which starts in late August and is held at Moultrie Middle School. Go to Louieskids.org to get an application or call Murray Young (843-329-9663) for more information.