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2nd-grade chef’s rice dessert in nat’l contest



Staff Writer


Luke Custer, a second-grade student at Pumpkin Center Primary School is more than comfortable in the kitchen. And now, he’s putting his cooking capabilities to good use by entering a contest that could win his school a cafeteria makeover.

As part of the Uncle Ben’s Beginners Contest, in which kids between the ages of 5 and 12 years old submitted videos — to now be voted upon online on Facebook — of themselves preparing their own recipes using Uncle Ben’s rice products, Luke decided to enter a “Dessert Rice Parfait,” both a healthier and sweeter option than most.

By entering a dessert recipe, Luke thinks it will help to set him apart from the roughly 450 other contestants.

“Everybody was doing dinners,” he said.

He even waited to submit his recipe until right before the deadline so others wouldn’t steal his idea of creating a sweet treat with the rice.

His mom, Wendi, a registered dietitian, said Luke has always been a “dessert chef.” He listed cookies and cakes as some of his favorite items to bake.

Nonetheless, she noted that she tries to incorporate healthy alternatives into their cooking, such as using apple sauce or sugar substitutes in baked goods.

Luke, at only 7 years of age, said he has been cooking for a while, pointing to his even younger brother to indicate just how long.

However, when asked if he hopes to someday be a professional chef, Luke shakes his head. For him, it’s just a hobby.

Luke found out about the contest after receiving a flier about it at school, which he then brought home to Mom, saying he wanted to participate and wanted to win.

“He’s very competitive by nature,” she said.

She also noted that many of the fundraisers done for schools throughout the year, such as selling cookie dough, don’t exactly promote good eating habits. This was an opportunity to potentially help the school while also showcasing healthy cooking options.

With the help of some of his siblings, they filmed his video segment about a month ago. Despite using no cue cards — just memorization — Luke confidently chops up fruit, cooks rice on the stove and describes his recipe in front of the camera.

The entries can be viewed and voted on by going to Uncle Ben’s Facebook page, clicking on the Ben’s Beginners Contest tab and then selecting “vote now.” By searching for “Luke” among the others, his video will be pulled up.

Online voting began on Monday and will last until March 11. Up to four finalists will be selected from the 450 entries, and they will get to go to New York City for a taping of the Rachael Ray Show toward the end of March.

There will then be another voting period to select the grand prize winner, who will appear again on Rachael Ray.

In addition to a school cafeteria makeover valued at $50,000, the winner will also receive $20,000 in cash, which Luke’s mom said would go toward his college education.


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