Youth Talk Food and ‘Cook This!’ in State Fair 4-H Culinary Challenge

AMES, Iowa – Seventy Iowa youths in grades 5-12 will talk food and “Cook This!” at the Iowa State Fair. The youth will compete in three- and four-member teams during this three-part culinary challenge Aug. 15, 16 and 17 offered by the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development program.

Cook This!The challenge takes place in the 4-H Exhibits Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Over three days, teams in each of the three age groups will compete in a multi-part challenge that tests their knowledge of food safety, produce, food preparation and presentation; their ability to inform others of the importance of food-related topics; and proper use of kitchen equipment. In the final part of the challenge, the teams will test their cooking skills as they prepare a particular dish. The teams won’t find out what food they’ll have to prepare until the challenge begins.

The high school youth also will be judged on their creativity as they use “secret ingredients” in their food preparation challenge, said Karen Frank, 4-H special events coordinator.

This Year: Communication

A new category that has been added this year is communication. Teams will be given a food-related topic and 30 minutes to prepare a speech that they then will present in front of an audience, Frank explained.

“We hear about food and nutrition on the news all the time. I think it is great to have youth becoming experts on topics that affect everyone,” Frank said.

Prizes, Sponsors and a Celebrity Judge

The first-place team in each age bracket will receive a VIP tour of Meredith’s Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen and photo studio. In addition, each member of the first-place senior team who is planning to attend Iowa State University in a food-related major will receive a $500 scholarship sponsored by the College of Human Sciences and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and be featured with their recipe in Successful Farming Magazine.

Cook This also welcomes Dahl’s Foods as an event sponsor this year. “Opportunities for youth to participate in events like this cannot happen without the support of businesses like Dahl’s Foods,” said Frank.

“This partnership allows us to reach a younger audience and help provide what we think are necessary skills for a healthy lifestyle — cooking, teamwork and being involved in the community. We’re happy to partner with Iowa 4-H and give students this opportunity at such a notable event as the Iowa State Fair,” said David Sinnwell, CEO of Dahl’s Foods.

Other sponsors of Cook This include Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Turkey Federation, ISU College of Human Sciences and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Successful Farming Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen, Iowa 4-H Foundation, ISU Extension and Outreach, Iowa Egg Council, Fareway, Cookies and Tone’s.

Cook This also will feature a celebrity judge, “That Guy Cy” Cy Gushiken. The owner of the Ohana Steakhouse and Cosi Cucina restaurant in Des Moines will judge the event all three days.

For more information about this event check the Cook This website at or e-mail

About the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program

4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, serving more than 6 million young people across America with programs in leadership, citizenship, communication and life skills. One in five Iowa school-age youth participates in 4-H. In Iowa, 4-H Youth Development is headquartered at the Iowa State University campus in Ames. 4-H is supported by federal, state and county funding, private grants and donations, and fees. For more information about joining 4-H, contact your Iowa State University Extension county office at or visit