Cooking shows teach 4-H life lessons

By Kelsey Kimbler -

The Cook Off and Mystery Mixer competitions were held on Thursday, Aug. 1, at the Preble County Fair.

EATON — The Preble County Jr. Fair has a focus on livestock and showing, but there are also different events for 4-H members to participate in. Members do not have to have an animal or show an animal to compete at the Preble County Fair.

Cooking shows are a big draw for many and give kids an opportunity to learn valuable life skills, while competing against their peers and maybe even making a little money.

This year, the Mystery Mixer and Cook Off were held on Thursday, Aug. 1.

Junior Fair participants can enter either the Cook Off or Mystery Mixer. Participants are only allowed to enter one of the two classes. The Cook Off is open only to 4-H members taking food project, while the Mystery Mixer is open to any Jr. Fair exhibitor.

The main difference between the Cook Off and the Mystery Mixer is that, for the Mystery Mixer, participants will not know what they are cooking before the show. They are given a list of ingredients and equipment to bring, but do not receive the recipe until they start the competition.

For the Cook Off, participants receive a recipe prior to the competition and have an opportunity to practice making the dish.

For both classes, participants are given a list of ingredients and cook what they must bring to the competition. All ingredients must be kept at proper temperatures. Failure to keep food at safe temperatures may result in disqualification.

Judging is based on work habits, time management, equipment, and quality of final product. Each recipe has a time requirement. Failure to stay within time may result in deduction of points or disqualification.

A Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion was selected from all participants in the age divisions of both competitions. The top two placings in each age division are eligible for the respective champion selection in each class.

The two Grand Champions, two Reserve Champions and the remaining first and second place entries for each age division had the opportunity to participate in a Baked Goods Silent Auction on Friday, Aug. 2. Winners were required to bake fresh items for the sale and had to be present.

“I think it gives a wonderful opportunity for 4-H boys and girls to show their knowledge, as far as putting a recipe together. I really applaud them. It helps them overcome some of that nervous energy you can get in front of a crowd,” Cook Off and Mystery Mixer Chairman Carol Lunsford said. “I have several 10 or 11 year 4-H members in our club. They love it and it is a very important part of the fair, to them. It is a life skill they are learning here with cooking.”

“A lot of these kids who have been cooking have been cooking for years and come back. Some of these girls in the Mystery Mixer I’ve seen since they were little, and I get to see how much they’ve grown, their confidence and skill has grown,” Co-Chair Sharon Lipps Hicks said. “I would like to see more kids come out and try to do this. It gives them opportunities to develop leadership skills also.”

Kelsie Shafer has been in 4-H for 11 years and has spent many years in 4-H cooking shows. This next year, she will be stepping up as an advisor of her 4-H club.

“I have learned a lot through taking cooking projects, and participating in the Cook Off and Mystery Mixer. I’ve got to work with some younger members and try to build their confidence, and I think that is my favorite thing and the greatest lesson I’ve learned through 4-H,” she said.

The Cook Off and Mystery Mixer competitions were held on Thursday, Aug. 1, at the Preble County Fair. Cook Off and Mystery Mixer competitions were held on Thursday, Aug. 1, at the Preble County Fair.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH