4th grader to visit White House as healthy recipe contest winner

(Left) Grady Garzo (Right) Garzo's recipe, Aina Holokai
(Left) Grady Garzo (Right) Garzo's recipe, Aina Holokai

A nine-year-old boy from Honolulu will head to Washington, D.C., next month on the trip of a lifetime.

Grady Garzo, a fourth-grader at Punahou School, was named Hawaii’s winner in this year’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids’ State Dinner recipe contest.

The nationwide contest, run by First Lady Michelle Obama, Epicurious, the Dept. of Education, and the Dept. of Agriculture, calls for an original recipe that is healthy, tasty, creative and affordable. Only children between the ages of eight and 12 are eligible to enter.

Related Links: Healthy Lunchtime Challenge | Kids’ State Dinner

Garzo’s winning recipe, titled Aina Holokai, or Feast for a Seafaring Voyage, was inspired by his studies on the traditional voyaging canoe, Hokulea, and its world-wide journey.

“I thought it would be a great idea to create a recipe that combined local Hawaiian foods with the foods of my family’s ethnic background,” Grady wrote in his submission. “So my recipe theme is seafaring navigation, a mahi-mahi, tabbouleh, and hummus outrigger canoe, accompanied by a papaya fruit boat like a Phoenician galloi, driven by a pineapple sail, and a tropical smoothie.”

“Grady totally loves fish, so we got this canoe idea, which was in his head because that’s what he’d been studying, so that’s what he wanted to make,” “explained Garzo’s mother, Jennifer Duncan. “My husband is Lebanese, so we’ve been eating tabbouleh and hummus as part of our daily life for years — even before it was popular.”

Duncan told KHON2 the two spent an entire day in the kitchen, “measuring, tasting and making sure it was just right.”

Garzo is one of 54 winners chosen from each U.S. state, three territories and the District of Columbia. More than 1,500 recipes were submitted and 112 are prepared in a test or restaurant kitchen for judging.

The family is planning a week-long trip to Washington, D.C. next month, during which Duncan and Garzo will attend a Kids’ State Dinner, technically a lunch, hosted by Obama at the White House, and other activities.

Duncan said Garzo was inspired to enter the contest by his classmate, who was a winner last year.

Each year, the winning recipes are published in a free cookbook that can be downloaded online.

Duncan says she’s been using last year’s recipes to help Garzo expand his palate and be more involved in the kitchen.

“He chooses the recipes and we cook them and try those flavors,” she said. “Obviously we really wanted to win, but even if we didn’t, the whole idea was to get him to try new things and also be more self-sufficient.”

This year’s cookbook won’t go online until July 23, but we’ve posted Garzo’s recipe here.

According to Duncan, Epicurious tweaked the recipe slightly by decreasing the amount of lemon and adding more garlic (throw the juice of a second lemon into the tabbouleh if you, like Garzo, prefer).

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