NEW TAMPA – Ayushi Mavuduru loves cooking, especially with her dad.
In lieu of watching shows on the Disney Channel she often chooses to check out recipes on the Food Network with her father, Prakash, by her side.
But never did she envision the notoriety she’d receive for a recipe she devised while engaging in a couple of her favorite pastimes – hanging out with her dad and honing her culinary skills.
Ayushi, 11, a fifth grader at Turner Elementary School in New Tampa, has been named Hillsborough County School District’s Ultimate School Lunch Chef.
Her Shredded Turkey Wrap recipe earned her first place in a school lunchroom recipe contest from among a field of 125 entrants. Moreover, her entry was the only elementary school-level submission in the district.
Ayushi’s recipe consists of a combination of white meat turkey, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and Mandarin oranges, plus red, yellow and green bell peppers, all sliced and diced and artfully wrapped in a whole wheat wrap.
She chose the food item because of its variety of fresh vegetables with just a hint of sweetness from the mini orange slices and because it got a stamp of approval from her dad, who is diabetic.
“I helped her chop up the ingredients and we had good fun,” said Prakash. “But we had no idea she’d would go this far with it – we were just happy to learn she’d been selected as a finalist.”
Ayushi’s wrap recently debuted in school cafeterias across the county as an added nutritional option at lunchtime, including a celebration in the lunchrooms at Turner and the neighboring Bartels Middle School where all eyes were on its creator.
“I like everything about it,” said fellow fifth-grader Jose Tejeda. “I’d rather have this than anything else.”
His fifth-grade buddy Joe Carlson agreed.
“It’s good. I like the turkey and all the different ingredients and I will get it again,” he said.
Ayushi’s mother, Kamal Mavuduru, said while she is proud of her daughter for devising the winning recipe she was equally pleased with the ease in which she handled all the attention associated with winning the contest. She is not one who seeks being the limelight.
Ayushi admitted, though, that she was clearly out of her comfort zone.
“This whole celebration is kind of overwhelming,” she said as she tried to nonchalantly munch on her wrap as onlookers flocked to her table.
Her onlookers also included Turner’s principal Rhonda McMahon, who said she was also impressed with Ayushi’s poise and composure, as was Ayushi’s math teacher Cassandra Farrior, who offered up the idea of entering the recipe contest to her students as a means to earn extra credit.
The project’s connection to math, Farrior said, was that it involved properly measuring the ingredients to ensure all the wrap’s components were in proper proportion.
Farrior said she was pleased when Ayushi opted to enter the contest and delighted when she learned her student won.
“She is such a sweet, humble student who is not a bragger,” she said. “She’s the kind of child you like to see win.”
Ayushi’s awards for her achievement include a PlayStation 4, a 42-inch flat screen TV and an Ikea bedroom makeover.
“I just think the whole cook-it-up contest is a good way to get kids in the kitchen and build lifelong habits on how to put a good and healthy meal together,” said Mary Kaye Harrison, schools’ general manager of student nutrition.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]