Michael Prados was at his grandparents’ house when he heard he’d won a trip to the first-ever Kids State Dinner on Aug. 20 at the White House.
“Whenever we first heard, my dad was saying he taught me how to cook and my mom said she was my favorite parent,” Michael Prados, 12, of Baton Rouge, said. “I told them neither one of y’all going because y’all bickering about it.”
So it was Prados’ grandfather, also named Michael, who accompanied the St. George Catholic School seventh-grader and food blogger to Washington, where they joined 54 other kids and their guardians — and sat at first lady Michelle Obama’s right hand.
Michael Prados’ mother, Catherine Prados, said she was surprised to see the pair sitting next to the first lady.
“The only thing I could think of to say was ‘Mind your manners,’ ” she said.
Prados came to be sitting there by winning Louisiana’s seat in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a contest judged by the first lady’s Let’s Move program to fight childhood obesity, Epicurious and the Departments of Education and Agriculture. His recipe, Fish Tacos, is “both healthy and delicious,” Michael Prados said.
He’s been cooking for an audience — readers of his Jr. Food Critic blog — for about four years. The blog started as a quest for Baton Rouge’s perfect potato soup.
“He had a big fondness for potato soup,” Catherine Prados said. “We went around one summer looking for the best potato soup in Baton Rouge. We started writing them down on a dry-erase board.”
Then dad, Sean Prados, intervened, saying it was the computer age and it was time for a more tech-savvy method of keeping up. Thus was born Jr. Food Critic, which eventually branched out into restaurant reviews and recipes. Oh, and the winning potato soup? La Madeleine Country French Café.
Michael Prados said the family worked on the recipes to keep them kid-friendly, like removing cutting up vegetables. The Jr. Food Critic potato soup, for instance, uses frozen hashbrowns instead of cubed raw potatoes. And his Fish Tacos use bagged coleslaw to avoid chopping cabbage.
Michael Prados says his and the other children’s healthy recipes were the main topic of conversation at the Kids State Dinner — until they got a surprise visitor. President Barack Obama popped in for a few minutes during the event.
“He came in unannounced,” Prados said. “It was a big shock to everybody.”
The trip also included a visit to the White House garden (it was “huge,” according to Michael Prados), and to the Smithsonian Institute to see the Julia Child exhibit, which featured a recreation of the famous chef’s kitchen.
He says he hasn’t tried any of Child’s recipes yet, but that he understands they’re really good.
Unfortunately, Michael Prados will be too old to tackle another Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, but he says he’ll continue to blog and to support the idea.
“I really hope that they keep doing it,” he said. “I really hope that more kids come up with more cool, healthy recipes.”