Iowa State Intern Keeps 4-H Cooking Competition Fresh

Kaitlyn Romitti at Cook This!AMES, Iowa -- Kaitlyn Romitti’s summer internship gave the Iowa State junior a jumpstart on achieving her career goals.

Romitti, who’s majoring in dietetics and family and consumer sciences and minoring in culinary science and Spanish, plans to become a registered dietitian. She said she would like to go into outreach programming through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“I enjoy working with people and I hope that with programming, I am able to make a difference in the world,” Romitti said.

In the summer of 2013, Romitti learned what a career in this field might be like when she interned as events coordinator for the “Cook This!” culinary competition. The event, held each summer at the Iowa State Fair, is coordinated by the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program, part of ISU Extension and Outreach, and the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

The competition is a four-part culinary challenge for youth in grades 5-12. Teams are judged on kitchen equipment skills, food product identification, knife skills, meal completion, creativity, communication and teamwork. Twenty-eight teams – a total of 84 youth – participated in 2013.

“The challenge is set up like ‘Iron Chef’ or ‘Chopped,’” said Cayla Taylor, referring to popular television cooking competition shows. Taylor is a 4-H youth program coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development who coordinates the internship and Cook This program.

Romitti was selected for the internship because she brought a unique perspective to the position with her academic background and passion for 4-H.

The internship requires designing and coordinating the schedule for the entire “Cook This!” event. Romitti was responsible for tasks ranging from developing the recipes to recruiting volunteers, and securing sponsorships. She said she appreciated the ability to use her own intuition and ideas to shape the competition.

“I had the flexibility to do what I felt was most suitable for the competition,” she said.

Taylor said Romitti’s creativity and skills enhanced the quality of the competition. She let competitors test their skills by cooking more demanding dishes like steak with chimichurri sauce and quinoa, and coq au vin with ratatouille.

“I really relied on Kaitlyn’s skills and expertise to develop the culinary, communication and additional challenges,” Taylor said. “She just jumped at the opportunity and did a wonderful job. In past years the recipes have been much more familiar to participants, dishes like spaghetti or tacos, but Kaitlyn really wanted to have the youth try new ingredients and new dishes.”

Romitti, who currently works part-time at the state 4-H office as an office assistant, said the summer internship helped her prepare for a future career by giving her a new set of skills and real-world professional experience that she could not get in a classroom.


Kaitlyn Romitti, former event coordinator, Cook This culinary competition, junior in dietetics, Iowa State University, 515-290-3022,

Cayla Taylor, 4-H Youth Development, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, 515-294-1877,

Tara Lackey, graduate assistant, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-9424,