Judges

The following honors will be given in the Morning and Afternoon Award Ceremonies for each age category:

Crowd-Pleaser
This award goes to the team that best incorporates color, texture, and taste for a true crowd-pleaser.

Lively Local
This award goes to the team that best highlights Vermont foods.

Mise en Place ("everything in its place") 
This award goes to the team that shows exemplary teamwork, order, and professionalism.

The following criteria will be used to evaluate teams:

Execution: Clean & presentable uniforms including hard-soled shoes, hats & aprons and safe food handling practices

Teamwork: Evenly distributed workload; team cohesiveness & communication

Taste: A subjective category based on judge’s expertise

Creativity: Ingenuity of the ingredients used; creative use of ingredients 

Local: Recipe highlights local, seasonal products (only for the Lively Local Award)

Compliance: Meets all Jr Iron Chef VT Guidelines and Rules

Meet the Judges

Adam Smith

Adam has spent the last decade working with artisan cheese and their producers.  Graduating with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Missouri, Smith focused on natural systems and social sciences.  Post-graduation Smith co-owned Green Stone Designs, a landscaping company offering sustainable solutions for lawn and garden care.  A passion for food, however, eventually led him down another professional path. Smith attained culinary skills through back-of-house restaurant work, followed by a position in specialty retail as the cheese counter manager at the Wine Merchant of St. Louis.  This experience marked a professional calling.  Smith was hired to Cowgirl Creamery's retail management team culminating in a post as the General Manager of their Washington D.C. location.  In 2012, Smith represented Cowgirl Creamery in the Cheesemonger Invitational and placed 1st among a roster of cheese professionals from around the world.  With a firm footing in cheese, Smith’s desire to expand his repertoire to include charcuterie led him to France for an immersion study of traditional methods.  Returning to Vermont in 2012, Smith joined the team at Jasper Hill Farm, a dynamic company committed to sustaining Vermont's working landscape, which is comprised of two dairy farms, two creameries, four partner producers and the central aging facility at the Cellars. Smith served as the resident Chef du Cave at the Cellars at Jasper Hill from 2013-2017.  Overseeing all operations related to affinage, Smith dedicated his time to ensuring that the cheese, the team and the facility are all well cared for.

Alyson Eastman

Alyson was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets by Governor Phil Scott in January of 2017. Most recently, she served in the Vermont State legislature, representing the Addision-Rutland 1 District. A graduate of Champlain College, Eastman has owned and operated several successful businesses over the years, offering a wide variety of services including property management, payroll, bookkeeping, and H-2 Visa management. Agriculture has always been an important part of her life. She grew up on the family farm in Orwell, Vermont. Throughout her youth, she was active in 4-H. She continues to live on the family farm in Orwell with her husband, and two sons.

Andrew McQuinn

Andrew is a two-year veteran of Jr Iron Chef VT. He led his Milton High School team to award-winning finishes in the past two competitions.  Andrew’s interest in cooking started early in life by ‘helping’ his mother around the kitchen.  He joined Jr Iron Chef VT to pursue his knowledge of food and how to prepare it in different ways. Now that he is about to graduate, he is learning as much as he can about cooking so he is ready to prepare meals that taste great and are healthy when living independently.

Andrew Merinoff

Andrew prides himself on a career spent dedicating time, effort, and passion to innovation in the hospitality industry. This time includes more than 10 years of culinary education, starting with schooling in his youth and continuing through the completion of a School of Hospitality degree in Denver. In Denver he was named Head Chef of his class. Andrew has extensive restaurant experience, including working with food and beverage brands such as Avenue Lounge, XXIV Karat Wines, The Charmer Sunbelt Group, representing fine wines and spirits, and more. Beginning at 15, he was instrumental in opening restaurants in New York City for BR Guest Hospitality. At the same time, as a sophomore at Vermont Academy, he proudly competed in Jr Iron Chef VT. Spending time between Denver and New York City, Andrew has worked as a menu and mixologist consultant for several restaurants and bars. This includes work with the Proximo Spirits brand which represents Jose Cuervo tequila, Three Olives vodka and The Kraken Black Spiced rum, among other notable spirits. He has also worked in multiple Michelin-rated New York City restaurants as well as led groups for multiple chef’s clubs and events.

Astrid Lague

Astrid is a former scientist, who left the lab behind for the fun of working with food!  She writes the Mealtime column for KidsVT, and works full time as a crew member at Trader Joe's.  She prides herself on a varied palate, a willingness to taste pretty much anything, and a zest for flavor.  She grew up in South Hero, spent a year of high school with family in Sweden.  Come the warmer weather, you are likely to see her riding around town on her beloved vintage 3-speed bicycle, Penelope.  Her culinary adventures can be found not only in KidsVT, but on her blog, lunchesfitforakid.blogspot.com.  She lives in Colchester with her wonderful husband, Chris, and two kids, ages 10 and 14, and their two demanding cats.

Deborah Schapiro

Deborah is a culinary enthusiast and entrepreneur whose career has included roles in publishing, communications, education and philanthropy. As the founding and former editor and publisher of Edible Green Mountains, Deborah had the pleasure and privilege of working with talented members of Vermont’s food and artisan community, and sharing their stories. A dedicated cookbook collector and home cook, Deborah is active with the International Association of Culinary Professionals and other non-profit organizations. Deborah received her Health Coach certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Her company, Full Circle Communications, provides consulting, coaching and leadership guidance to individuals and organizations eager to achieve their full potential. 

Doug Davis

Doug has been the Director of Food Service for the Burlington School Food Project for nearly 20 years. He co-chairs the Food Service Directors Association of Vermont buying co-operative, chairs SNA's Public Policy and Legislation Committee, and is past President of SNA-VT. Doug has been working in child nutrition programs for 25 years and has been actively involved in the Farm 2 School movement for over 15 years. Doug resides on a farm in North Ferrisburg, Vermont with his wife and has 4 grown children.

Elizabeth Aekus

Elizabeth is a 5th grade school teacher at Twin Valley Elementary in Wilmington, Vermont. She prides herself in bettering the community through her involvement in youth sports and academics. With a love and passion for food, Elizabeth greatly values the art of cooking. Elizabeth participated in Jr Iron Chef VT in 2008, where her team was awarded Best in Show for their vegetarian chili. She later participated in 2010 through 2012. In 2011, Elizabeth spent a month in Mexico traveling across the country learning to cook various Mexican dishes with local chefs. During her free time, Elizabeth enjoys exploring Vermont and other places by hiking, running, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. 

Erica Campbell

Erica works for Senator Bernie Sanders covering issues including agriculture and nutrition. She was the former director of the Vermont Farm to Plate Network, and prior to that worked at the Center for an Agricultural Economy. Erica co-founded a local food council in 2007 focused on farm to school efforts in the Waterbury area. She has also held a variety of food system jobs including line cook and produce manager. 

Erinn Simon

Erinn Simon is the Food Program Director at the Burlington Children's Space, where she has spent 8 years cooking healthy meals for 40 kids every day. She writes about her experiences there on her blog The Lunch Lady at bcslunchlady.blogspot.com. She also writes about kids and food for Parent.Co, kidsVT, and has been featured in the Huffington Post. She and her photographer husband make weekly videos of kid-friendly recipes, which you can see at Parent.Co every Friday. 

Eva Sollberger

Eva Sollberger produces editorial and advertising video for Burlington-based Seven Days, Vermont's free, independent weekly newspaper. Her weekly web video series “Stuck in Vermont” — launched in February, 2007 — appears every Thursday on sevendaysvt.com and airs on WCAX-TV, the local CBS affiliate. Shorter subtitled versions of the videos appear on Seven Days’ Facebook and Instagram pages. In the past 10 years, Eva has traveled around the state producing hundreds of videos about artists, events and quirky characters. “Stuck in Vermont” has racked up more than 4 million views online. In 2016, “Stuck in Vermont” videos won three first place awards for video from the New England Newspaper and Press Association, and won Best Video from the New England Society of Newspaper Editors. Eva lives in Burlington with cats and chickens and she loves sampling the local, fresh food that Vermont has to offer.

Jason Gregoire

Jason started in the restaurant equipment industry long before he can remember, as his grandfather started suppling local restaurants and institutions back in the 60’s. His father and uncle brought him into the industry full time when he was in his early 20’s. Now 21 years later is still following in their footsteps, supporting the local industry with sales & service that has been present in our community for 3 generations. We work with all levels of the industry from sales to fully engineered design drawings for our customers.

 

Jason Merrill

Jason is the Managing Partner and Executive Chef of Operations for The Worthy Burger. He brings a passion for fresh, natural ingredients sourced locally, paired with culinary inspirations from everyday living. Jason’s career began at the Phoenician Resort Hotel in Arizona, under the direction of Alessandro Stratta, known for appearances on The Iron Chef. Honing his skills at John Gardner’s Tennis Ranch, then at Lon’s of Hermosa, he followed Chef Michael de Maria to Michael’s at The Citadel. Jason’s accolades include “The Best of” New Hampshire 2008 & 2009, and Headline Chef at The James Beard House in 2011’s “Vermont Farm Dinner”, 2008’s “White Truffle Extravaganza,” as well as James Beard Dinners in New York City featuring Historic Hotels of America and Chef Michael DeMaria. A native of Vermont, Jason has worked locally at The Hanover Inn, The Jackson House and The Quechee Club. While at The Jackson House in Woodstock, his cuisine was voted in Conde Nast’s January 2006 Gold List as “The Best Food” - “Ranked Number 1 Score 100” AAA Four Diamond Award, and was also featured in the following magazine publications: Bon Appétit, October 2005; Modern Bride, Winter 2005; Condé Nast “Top 75 Places to Stay in the World”, Fall 2005; and Ski Magazine, October 2005. Celebrating Vermont’s regional flavors, Jason will implement a farm to table program supporting local farms and organizations. As a member of Slow Food, USA, and Chefs for Sustainable Environment, he’s engaged with the Vermont food community in every sense.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry Greenfield and his long-time friend and business partner, Ben Cohen, are the men behind one of the most talked-about and least conventional success stories in American business.  Co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc., Greenfield has helped to build a store front venture into an ice cream and business marvel by making social responsibility and creative management strengths, rather than weaknesses. Greenfield and Cohen have been recognized for fostering their company's commitment to social responsibility by the Council on Economic Priorities and by the U.S. Small Business Administration. They have also received the James Beard Humanitarians of the Year and the Peace Museum’s Community Peacemakers of the Year Awards. Presently, Greenfield’s official title at the company is Co-Founder. He is involved in promoting the social and environmental initiatives that Ben & Jerry’s undertakes.  He is also President of the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.

Kate Ash

Kate believes in the power of collective impact to solve our most pressing public challenges, and enjoys traveling Vermont to support communities eager to make systematic change.  Since 2013, Kate has served as a Field Representative for United States Senator Patrick Leahy, where she helps to manage his anti-poverty portfolio including housing, human services, nutrition and education.  Prior to landing this dream job, she helped to lead the Irene Recovery Office after Tropical Storm Irene devastated Vermont in 2011.  As a native Vermonter, Kate can most often be found trying new recipes with her CSA, at her yoga studio or on the road as she aspires to join the Vermont 251 Club! 

Maddie Harper

Maddie is a former Jr Iron Chef VT participant. At her local high school she takes pride in helping serve local seniors a meal once a month. Her passion for food started at a very young age. She distinctly remembers baking desserts with her grandmother since she was old enough to stir and admittedly lick the batter. She joined Jr Iron Chef VT to further her knowledge of food and learn ways to make lunches healthier within schools.

Mara Welton

Mara co-owns and operates 2.5 acre Half Pint Farm with her husband Spencer in Burlington’s Intervale. Mara farms because she loves good food – and started her specialty veggie farm in 2003 to provide Vermont with locally grown niche produce. She loves that farming keeps her grounded, inspired, and eating the best possible food everyday! Mara is board chair of Slow Food Vermont, bringing to this position a passion for food and traditional foodways, enthusiasm for the process of seed to plate and educational event planning. She also continues to maintain her role as Slow Food State Governor, liaising between Slow Food International, Slow Food USA, and Slow Food Vermont. When Mara is not farming, she is: running, experimenting in the kitchen, reading about food, snuggling with her dachshunds, traveling abroad, practicing calligraphy, entertaining, and pining for the growing season.

Megan Peek

Megan received her undergraduate degree in International Relations from American University and went on to get her MA in Cross-cultural Communication and International Development from the School for International Training.  Her experience ranges from working as a Planned Parenthood Educator on college campuses to work with income generating cooperatives in West Africa.  She moved to Burlington, Vermont in 1996 and has been working in community outreach and health education at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Vermont for 20 years.   

Sarah Waring

Prior to joining the Center for an Agricultural Economy as their Executive Director in February 2013, Sarah Waring served as Program Director for the Farm & Wilderness Foundation, a 73 year old non-profit outdoor education organization. Sarah has also managed a comprehensive statewide campaign called Council on the Future of Vermont for the Vermont Council on Rural Development, has worked in the non-profit world in conservation, land use planning, and rural development, as well as for the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Glover, Vermont, Sarah earned her B.A. from Haverford College, and her M.A.A. from the University of Maryland. Although she has lived in various places on the East Coast and in the Rocky Mountains, Sarah is proud to call Vermont home.

Yaw Obeng

Yaw is the Superintendent of the Burlington School District and has previous leadership experience as a superintendent in Canada. He demonstrates a strong commitment to both the development of community assets and social justice through engagement of students, parents and staff. Yaw seeks out opportunities to collaborate with community and business organizations on innovative initiatives. He has trained and presented on student achievement, leadership, community engagement, safe and inclusive schools and equity issues throughout North America, Europe and parts of Asia. Most importantly, Yaw takes great pride in empowering students and staff to reach their highest potential.