Food & Drink

Chapel Hill eighth-grader earns trip to White House with recipe

Vijay Dey's spring roll recipe won him one of 50 spots at a Kids' State Dinner at the White House.
Vijay Dey's spring roll recipe won him one of 50 spots at a Kids' State Dinner at the White House. Courtesy of Mei Dey

Twelve-year-old Vijay Dey is one of 54 children from across the country whose healthy recipe won a spot at a “Kids’ State Dinner,” hosted by first lady Michelle Obama at the White House.

Dey, a rising eighth-grader at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, will travel to Washington, D.C., with his mother, Mei Dey, for the two-day affair that culminates in the July 9 luncheon and a tour of the White House garden.

Seated in the living room of the family’s Chapel Hill home, Dey recalled hearing the news: “I was pretty excited.”

It was Dey’s mom’s idea to enter “The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge,” sponsored by the Epicurious website, the first lady and federal agencies. The recipe contest is designed to promote healthy eating among children and combat childhood obesity.

Dey had a recipe ready to go based on an earlier homework assignment. For his language arts class, Dey had to make a meal connected to his family. He chose a spring roll recipe that his 75-year-old grandfather makes once a month. Dey’s grandfather lives with the family and makes dinner most weeknights.

The spring rolls, stuffed with shiitake mushrooms, Napa cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, scallions and chicken, had to meet the standards of a healthy meal as set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate initiative.

Dey doesn’t cook much with his grandfather, who usually makes dinner when Dey does homework. Dey, who was in chess camp last week, is a studious kid. Last year, he placed 15th in a statewide geography bee. This time, his homework had a payoff.

On July 9, Dey and his mother visit the White House, where they hope to meet President Barack Obama and the first lady. Asked whether he was excited to possibly meet the president, Dey said, “I guess.”

Vijay Dey wasn’t the only one in the Dey household to enter the contest. His 10-year-old brother, Rajen, entered a chili recipe but didn’t make the cut. Their father, Ranabir Dey, hopes his youngest son will do better next time because only one parent can go with Vijay this time.

He told Rajen: “Maybe next year, you can win, then I can go.”