Metairie contest winner, 12, to lunch at White House

When Brynna Robert, 12, is asked what she did on summer vacation, she’ll get to answer, “Had lunch at the White House with the first lady.”

Robert, daughter of Sheila and Frank Robert, of Metairie, is Louisiana’s winner in the nationwide Healthy Lunchtime Challenge recipe contest. On Tuesday, she will join 53 other winners, representing all U.S. states, three territories and the District of Columbia, at the second annual Kids’ State Dinner at the White House hosted by Michelle Obama. The children, ages 8 to 12, will eat a lunch featuring a selection of their winning recipes and then take a visit to the White House kitchen garden.

Brynna doesn’t know if her recipe, Sweet and Spicy Stir-Fry, will be one of those lunch selections.

The second Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, originated by Epicurious to promote healthful eating among America’s youth, received more than 1,300 entries, contest organizers said. The contest is part of the first lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. The contest invited parent or guardians to work with their children to create a lunchtime recipe that is healthful, affordable, original and delicious. Each recipe had to adhere to the guidelines of the USDA’s MyPlate (at

Sheila Robert, who will accompany her daughter to Washington, said, “I had seen a little blurb in the newspaper about (the contest). I saw it on the day of the deadline. She did the whole entry in one day. We had to take a picture of the recipe, she had to write a little essay and enter the recipe. She made (it) with only an hour until the deadline.”

Brynna started with a recipe her mother had made, but she hadn’t enjoyed because “it was really bland and didn’t have a lot of flavor. Only thing I liked was the pineapple because it was sweet. I decided to put in an ethnic spice, chili-garlic sauce. It’s spicy and I do enjoy foods with spice in them.”

She said she “put a lot of thought into it — what I could do to make it better. I’d never tried it before, but it turned out really delicious.”

She describes her dish as “an explosion of flavors that are absolutely savory.” She recommends serving it with a glass of milk.

The Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies student said she enjoys cooking, but “I don’t really like to pick favorites in food because there are lots of foods out there I haven’t tried and I might really enjoy them when I find them.”

Brynna often makes crepes because she finds them versatile, and she likes to help her grandmother Vivian Zehr, of Des Allemands, make gumbo.

“I’m really looking forward to going to Washington. I’ve never been,” she said. “I want to thank Epicurious for giving me this opportunity.”

She hopes she and her mom will have time to go the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum because she said, “I like science. Cooking in itself is a form of science. You change the molecules when you cook.”