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Sweet! Four Teens Face Off in Maple Sugar Festival Cookoff

Two Stamford teens will compete in cooking competition at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center's annual Maple Sugar Festival Weekend.

Stamford teens Marissa Young, left, and Hunter Zampa, will compete in this weekend's maple sugar cookoff at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center. Contributed photos.
Stamford teens Marissa Young, left, and Hunter Zampa, will compete in this weekend's maple sugar cookoff at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center. Contributed photos.

It'll be a sweet competition this weekend for four talented teen chefs who will compete in First County Bank’s Teen Chefs Challenge event at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center during this year’s Maple Sugar Festival.

On Saturday, March 1, the young chefs will compete in a competition to create the best tasting recipe, as judged by the public, using maple syrup as an ingredient.

This year marks the 14th anniversary First County Bank has sponsored this family festival highlighting the New England tradition of maple sugaring. 

From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on March 1, Hannah Buzkin of Westport, Evan Cassidy of Northford, and Stamford residents Marissa Young and Hunter Zampa, are scheduled to battle it out in the kitchen. They will present their creations for the public to sample. The public will vote for their favorite creation and the winning recipe and chef will be announced at 2 p.m.

The First County Bank Maple Sugar Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, March 1 and 2, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. rain or shine.  The maple sugar season usually peaks around the first week in March.  At this family festival, visitors will see maple tapping demonstrations, taste sweet maple syrup treats, make a maple-themed craft, go on a scavenger hunt and enjoy the popularSunday pancake brunch.

“The First County Bank Chefs Challenge has truly become a tradition since its inception in 2010 and a highlight during the Maple Sugar Festival Weekend,” said Karen Kelly, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at First County Bank. “This year we’re excited to switch it up a bit and invite a talented group of teen chefs to participate in the cooking challenge. Using maple syrup, they will prepare an eclectic mix of dishes for the public to taste and judge. It’s great to provide a venue to showcase local kids’ talents and help them further hone their skills.”

Hannah Bukzin is a freshman at Staples High School in Westport. Since she has cooking since she was 7. She started to watch Food Network (Alton Brown is her man!) and became more interested in the topic of food. She continues to practice and experiment. She started off with a little bowl of pasta, and now she is breaking down whole fish and making stocks with the bones. 

Most recently, she won the CTbites/Marica Selden "Chopped" style cook-off where she competed against two (adult) finalists. Last summer she participated in the Wellesley College cooking camp.  Visit http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/10/19/marcia-seldens-contest-winners-throw-down-chopped-style-w-ro.html and http://www.explo.org/focus/chef for more information.

Northford resident Evan Cassidy is starting college at a young age due to home schooling. The 15-year-old is beginning his second semester at Gateway Community College in New Haven Connecticut, majoring in Culinary Arts and Hotel Management. On his days off from school, he enjoys trying new recipes, snowboarding, and attending pottery classes.  Evan hopes to take part in the Disney Culinary Program when he graduates and turns 18.

Marissa Young is an 8th-grader at Stamford's Rippowam Middle School.  She began baking when she was about 3 years old. Her father, Dan, has always loved to bake (he learned from his grandmother), and he has always had Marissa by his side in the kitchen, especially when baking cookies. She receives encouragement from her brothers, who enjoy eating her cookies, fudge and cupcakes. Her other passion is gymnastics, which she's been doing since she was 2. Marissa especially enjoys sharing her sweet creations with her gymnastics team after a tough workout.

Thirteen-year-old Hunter Zampa of Stamford, seems to be on the fast track hoping to show off his cooking skills to the world and to become an Iron Chef and restaurateur. Hunter spends his weekends creating new recipes.

In December Hunter won Chopped, on an episode featuring teen competitors, making him the youngest winner in the show's history. He's also participated on Food Network’s Rachel vs. Guy Kids Cook-Off.  To see him in action, check out http://blog.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/2013/12/announcing-the-chopped-teen-champion-2/ and Rachel vs. Guy Kids Cook Off http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/rachael-vs-guy-kids-cook-off/meet-the-kid-chef-contestants-from-rachael-vs-guy-kids-cook-off.html.

Other weekend activities at the nature center, 39 Scofieldtown Rd., Stamford, will include face painting, storytelling and music. A daily admission fee of $5 per person will be charged to museum members and $10 for non-members.  All children 3 and under, Family Plus and above members are allowed in free.

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