Teen Chefs’ Sticky Maple Syrup Challenge


— Public and Celebrity Judges to Choose Winner at Stamford Museum & Nature Center –

STAMFORD, Conn., Feb. 27, 2018 – Eight talented teen chefs will compete in First County Bank’s Teen Chefs Challenge event at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center during this year’s Maple Sugar Festival Weekend held on March 3 and 4 from 11a.m. to 3p.m. rain or shine. On Saturday, March 3, the teen chefs will compete in an exciting competition to create delicious dishes featuring Stamford Museum & Nature Center maple syrup as a main ingredient. This year marks the 18th anniversary First County Bank has sponsored this family festival highlighting the New England tradition of maple sugaring.

Teen chefs competing are Rio Fernandez, Molly Hertz, Makenzie Lehman, Maya Leinward, Jessica Schweizer, Helena Sushon, Amy DePaz and Isabella Giordano and will battle it out in the kitchen at the Main House, Bendel Mansion. The teen chefs will create their culinary masterpieces for the public and celebrity judges to sample. The cooking competition and voting are from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and the public is encouraged to cast their vote for the best dish. The winner will be declared by popular vote and by a panel of celebrity judges: Rey Giallongo, chairman and CEO, First County Bank; Karen Kelly, senior vice president, chief digital banking officer, First County Bank; Silvia Baldini, chef, Chopped Champion on Food Network, founder of the creative food group Strawberry and Sage in CT and the writer of the blog Silvia’s Trays. The winning chef and recipe will be announced 2 p.m. Saturday at the Maple Sugar House.

“The First County Bank Chefs Challenge is a highlight of the Maple Sugar Festival Weekend which we are proud to sponsor,” said Robert Granata, COO and President, First County Bank. “The Maple Sugar Festival provides an excellent opportunity for these young chefs to showcase their culinary abilities and further develop their talent. Maple syrup, of course, is the key ingredient that each teen chef needs to incorporate into their dishes for the public and celebrity judges to taste and judge. We invite the public to enjoy a weekend full of great food, fun, learning and old fashioned New England traditions.”

Rio Fernandez is almost 13 years old, is from Bristol, and has been baking for one year, nonstop. He is self-taught and has his own YouTube channel and Facebook page dedicated to his baking. He is homeschooled. He plays baseball, wrestles, and is a great ballroom dancer. He has two brothers. He is Latino and fluent in Spanish. Like most kids his age, he loves watching television and playing video games. “I would like to participate in this challenge because it will help me be a better baker. It will help me be a better conversationalist. I am good at talking to my camera about my baking, but I would like to be better at talking with people face to face. It will be fun and I like to compete.”

Mollie Herz is 13 years old and is in the 8th grade at Rippowam Middle School in Stamford. She likes to swim, play the ukulele, and sing. One of her favorite things to do is bake. “My love of baking started when I would help my mom in the kitchen. We would make all sorts of things such as brownies, cinnamon rolls, and cookies for school events. I am very excited to show my skills during this challenge!”

Makenzie Lehman is 13 years old and is in the 8th grade at Weston Middle School in Weston, CT. “I love to bake and cook at my house, I get most of it from my family, and we are always cooking something! At my house, we do our own version of “Chopped” and it is a lot of fun! Also, last year my family and I went to the competition and voted, so I know what the set up looks like and I would like to be a part of this challenge.”

Maya Leinwand is a 14 year old from Bedford, N.Y. and is in the 8th grade at Fox Lane Middle School. In addition to cooking, Maya enjoys playing field hockey and lacrosse. She also loves to care for animals and to draw in her spare time. “I have loved cooking and baking since I was toddler. I watch cooking shows and create original recipes at home. I would like to go to culinary school in the future and hope to have my own restaurant or bakery one day.”

Jessica Schweizer is a 13 year old from Norwalk and a freshman at Academy of Information, Technology & Engineering (AITE) in Stamford. She likes to cook whenever she can, whether it’s breakfast or dessert. She enjoys mathematics, ballroom dancing, and gymnastics. “I love to cook and since I am a high school student, this event is a great way for me to showcase my talent by taking part in a community event. I also enjoy spending time at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center and helping on the farm. Lastly, I think this is a great way to combine healthy eating and community involvement.”

Helena Sushon is a 14 year old from Old Greenwich and is in the 8th grade at Eastern Middle School in Greenwich. “I have been going to the Stamford Museum & Nature Center and the Maple Sugar Festival since I was in preschool. Baking and cooking are my passions. My friends, family and fellow school students enjoy my creations. I would like to help people enjoy this year’s festival with a special, delicious dessert.”

Amy DePaz is a 14 year old from Stamford and is in the 9th grade at J.M. Wright Technical School. During the Fall I participate in the Marching Band and the rest of the year I play clarinet for the Concert Band. In my free time you will often find me sketching. “I want to participate in the Teen Chefs Challenge because I think it is a great opportunity to showcase the skills I have learned so far in my Culinary Trade Class. I also think it’s good to experience being in a competition. I have always enjoyed cooking and baking since I was young.”

Isabella Giordano is a14 year old from Norwalk and is in the 9th grade at J.M. Wright Technical School. “I want to participate in the Teen Chefs Challenge because it is a good opportunity to gain experience in my field of interest. I am enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program at JM Wright Technical HS and aspire to be a Pastry Chef. For the past six years, I have been involved in Competitive Gymnastics and often find myself drawing in my sketchbook during my down time.”

About Stamford Museum & Nature Center

Stamford Museum & Nature Center is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of art, natural and agricultural sciences, and history. The museum is a vital cultural and educational resource for the community, and a focal point for family activity and interaction, seeking to inspire creativity, foster self-discovery, and nurture an appreciation for lifelong learning through exhibitions, educational programs and special events that enhance the visitor’s experience. Stamford Museum & Nature Center is located off High Ridge Road at 39 Scofieldtown Rd. in Stamford (three-quarters of a mile north of Merritt Parkway Exit 35). For more information, visit www.stamfordmuseum.org.

About First County Bank

First County Bank, headquartered in Stamford, Conn. for more than 165 years, is an independent mutual community bank with 16 branches in Stamford, Norwalk, Darien, Greenwich, Fairfield, New Canaan and Westport offering deposit products, mortgages, wealth management, business banking services, mobile and online banking. First County Bank has more than 220 employees, assets in excess of $1.5 billion and is a 2016-2018 Women’s Choice Award winner. For additional information, please visit https://www.firstcountybank.com. Become a fan by clicking “Like” on the bank’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/firstcountybank. Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/firstcountybank, view and follow us on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/firstcountybank, watch us on YouTube at http://www.firstcountybank.com/camera or connect with First County Bank on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/company/920207.

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