CINCINNATI -- Seven chefs dressed all in black marched single file into a dining hall. The theme song of the ABC television show "Shark Tank" echoed through the room as the chefs passed through the audience and took a seat in front a panel of judges, who would ultimately decide the fate of each chef’s product.
The twist? No chef had reached the age of 18.
Gabriel’s Place in Avondale had its very own mock "Shark Tank" competition Aug. 11. Students from the Jr. Chef program presented entrepreneurial products they created with the resources and skills they obtained during their 8-week training. Products ranged from face masks to seasoning rubs.
The competition mirrored the hit show with presentations including posters and samples, questions from the judges, a deliberation period and, finally, the moment when each judge announced which chefs would receive a mock investment.
Azizah Hillman, market coordinator at Gabriel’s Place, said the students started the course with little knowledge of the culinary arts and no background in entrepreneurship.
“They came into the program not believing that they could make a product and sell it and each one is leaving having done that,” Hillman said.
Each Jr. Chef sold their product every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Farmer’s Market at Gabriel’s Place during their time in training and made a $400 profit. They used that profit to go on an outing and had enough left over for each student to get a $25 gift card for school supplies.
Trazana Staples, executive director of Gabriel’s Place said the mock competition gave the students an incentive to learn more about how to solve an issue within the Avondale community -: access to healthy food and grocery stores.
“Avondale is the second-largest food desert in the area,” Staples said, “So we teach people how to grow food and prepare it in healthy ways. The students have learned more about urban agriculture and environmental sustainability while being able to develop skills on creating products,” Staples said.
All four judges praised the chefs on their creativity and leadership. Each chef’s product is highlighted below.
Chef: Andrea Hall
Product: Bella’s Beauty Mask
As youngest chef in the program, Hall created a cucumber-based face mask that promotes relaxation and hydration. Hall also came up with the idea to offer facials during Farmer’s Market hours. Each face mask costs $2 and facials cost $5.
Bella asked the judges for a $500 investment to cover the costs of ingredients, vendor space and packaging costs to start her brand. She planned to promote her product by making signs around the community.
Chef: Imani Lattimore
Product: Nycole’s Face Scrub
Lattimore created two face scrubs and an essential face oil. All of her products included lavender to help with headaches and stress. Coffee and sugar were used as exfoliants in her facial scrubs and honey was used to smooth the skin. Lattimore said she planned to promote her brand through social media.
Facial scrubs costs $2 to $5 depending on the size purchased. Lattimore asked for $475 to start her brand. Judges granted her two mock checks -- one for $1,000 and another for $400.
Lattimore’s poster read, “If you can’t eat it, don’t wear it.”
Chef: Ge’niah Hughes
Product: Gigi’s Granola
Hughes created her own granola bar that included coconut oil, honey, oats and multiple kinds of nuts. Hughes stressed the importance of the health benefits of eating her granola including increased energy without sacrificing flavor.
Half-size granola bars cost $.50 and full-size bars cost $1. Hughes asked for $500 for ingredients and vendor space. Judges awarded her one $500 check.
Chef: Joseph Hillman
Product: Blazing Rainbow Smoothies
Hillman created a smoothie company that offers different flavors of fruit smoothies to customers. Hillman’s smoothies are not an average smoothie however; they offer a healthy alternative to energy drinks. Some of the fruits Hillman used are watermelon, mango and peaches.
Each smoothie costs $2. Hillman asked for $400 for vendor space, supplies and ingredients. He planned to promote his smoothies through social media and word of mouth.
Chefs: “The sister duo,” Evelyn Johnson and Aailyah Burgos
Ages: 17, 10
Product: Perfect Blend Smoothies
Johnson and Burgos, also known as Baby Cheese and Sunglasses, also came up with a smoothie company, but they added something sweet to their product: chocolate. During their lively presentation, the girls rattled off a pleasant amount of health benefits to chocolate, including reduced risk of stroke and heart attacks with moderate use. They planned to promote their smoothies with their social media platform.
Smoothies cost $2 and the sisters asked for a $500 investment to start their company. Judges awarded the pair two mock checks: one for $1,000 and another for $500.
Chef: Empyreal Tafari Hawkins
Product: Py-Real Rub
Hawkins was awarded the most mock checks out of all the chefs for three types of dry seasoning rubs she created. Her rubs included a wide variety of seasonings like onion powder, fresh garlic, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cumin, coriander and black pepper. For several components of her rubs she had to dehydrate the ingredients herself. A selling point with the judges was the omission of salt in all 3 rubs, making them extremely marketable to low-sodium consumers.
Smaller containers of the rubs cost $2, while larger containers are $5. Hawkins asked for $500 to start her brand and received three mock checks from the judges: two for $500 and one for $1,000.