WASHINGTON - When Lydia Finkbeiner, 9, grows up, she wants to be a teacher. Or an architect. Or a beekeeper.
She knows one thing she doesn’t want to be – a chef. For Lydia, cooking is a fun activity that she enjoys, not something she thought would earn her trip to the White House.
Finkbeiner is a rising fourth grader at Prairie Trace Elementary school in Carmel. She was one of 54 children across the U.S. to win first lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, earning her a seat Tuesday at the Kids’ State Dinner.
A winner was chosen from each state, three territories and the District of Columbia. Each recipe had to contain each food group with fruits and vegetables making up about half the plate.
Lydia’s winning dish - Sneaky Chili Surprise - is a vegetarian chili that sneaks in three vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes and onions.
“It tastes really good, but it’s also a small bit spicy,” Finkbeiner said. “Especially for me because I have a sensitive tongue.”
Finkbeiner and the other winners, all ages 8 to 12, attended the state dinner in the White House East Room on Tuesday where they heard from Michelle Obama and met members of the White House kitchen staff.
President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance at the lunch and introduced himself to everyone individually.
The menu for the meal included several entries from the competition, including zucchini cornbread from Wyoming, spring rolls from North Carolina and bodacious banana muffins from Tennessee.
This is the second year of the challenge. It was started to support the first lady’s Let’s Move campaign to help solve childhood obesity.
Michelle Obama said she was proud of all of the winners and was impressed with the creativity she saw in each entry.
“When kids like all of you get involved in creating your own healthy meals, the results can really be amazing and delicious and fun,” she said. “You’ll come up with ideas that none of us grownups ever thought of.”
The president agreed with the first lady, saying the recipes sounded a lot better than the boiled vegetables he grew up with.
"Food can be fun, it can be healthy," Obama said. "You are setting up habits that are going to be great your entire life."
The challenge was originated by Epicurious, an online food magazine, and has since received more than 1,300 recipes.
X-Factor contestant and singer Rachel Crow performed at the event. She invited the winners to get up and dance with her, which Lydia said was the thing she enjoyed most about the day.