Edwards 10-year-old wins Uncle Ben’s cooking contest

Caramie Schnell
Siblings Nicholas and Chloe Hornbostel cook “River Beans and Rice” on stage with celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson on Friday at Edwards Elementary School. Chloe was one of five winners in a kid's cooking contest put on by Uncle Ben's rice, nabbing a $30,000 makeover for her school’s cafeteria and $15,000 in winnings for herself.
Townsend Bessent | |

EDWARDS — Somewhere around 350 rambunctious elementary school kids cheered on classmate Chloe Hornbostel on Friday morning during a surprise, all-school assembly at Edwards Elementary School.

Chloe, 10, was chosen as one of the five national grand prize winners for the Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest put on by Uncle Ben’s rice, winning a $30,000 cafeteria makeover for the school and $15,000 for herself. Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson helped host Friday’s event, cooking Chloe’s winning recipe “River Rice and Beans” on stage with her and her brother, Nicholas, 9, who was also a finalist in the competition.

More than 500 kids submitted videos for the contest and 25 finalists were selected from that group.

“Who likes to cook?” Matt Hurst, a spokesman for Uncle Ben’s Rice, asked the excited children shortly after the presentation started. Hurst when on to explain why Uncle Ben’s started the contest three years ago. It’s now held in 12 countries worldwide, Hurst said.

“The idea was to get kids in the kitchen, cooking with their families,” said Hurst, who introduced Samuelsson and shared the up-until-then secret that Chloe was a grand prize winner.

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After Edwards Elementary School Principal Heidi Hanssen accepted the check, she thanked the Hornbostel family.

“We’re so excited, students, that Chloe and Nicholas worked so hard to enter us in the competition,” Hanson said, going on to talk about how she’d work with the students and teachers to figure out the best way to put the money to use, be it with paint, new furniture or by “finding ways to speed up the lunch line,” which earned applause from the students.


Monika, Chloe’s mom, got the news her daughter had won last week, while the kids were at school.

“I could barely breathe,” she said. “I did a happy dance.”

Chloe herself found out later via a phone call from an Uncle Ben’s spokesperson. She was being filmed as she got the news and her reaction was incorporated into a video shown at the assembly. The video also showed Chloe’s original submission video that got her chosen as a finalist in the first place.

“It was really exciting,” said Chloe, who plans to use her winnings to “go to a Beyonce concert” as soon as possible; she is going to save the remainder of the winnings for college, she said.

Nicholas, who is no stranger to the limelight — he met first lady Michelle Obama in 2013 at a White House Kids’ State Dinner after being named one of the winners in the Epicurious Healthy Lunchtime Challenge — was excited for his sister.

“I was really proud of her and not really jealous,” he said.

With dreams of one day being a chef, Nicholas seemed happy to have been a finalist in the competition, and thrilled to have met Samuelsson, a celebrity chef he’s watched often on television.

“It was kind of my dream to meet him,” he said, grinning.

Plus, as part of his winnings for being a finalist, he got a $200 gift card to any grocery store. He plans to “buy some weird food” to experiment with in the kitchen, he said, something that’s not surprising considering during his last interview with the Vail Daily he mentioned his fondness for sweet breads and other foods many 9-year-olds wouldn’t allow near their plate.


Similar celebrations were held last week for contest finalists at Franklin Academy, a charter school in Pembroke Pines, Florida and at Clark Davidson Elementary, near Wichita, Kansas, both of which Samuelsson also attended.

Next week, two more hometown celebrations will take place in yet-to-be revealed locations.

“Vail has the best mountains so far,” Samuelsson said.

The contest was a “window into what’s going on in the kitchen with families,” Samuelsson said, mentioning some of the recipes that were submitted for the contest. “There was tuna sushi in one place, rice and beans, turkey sausage with fried rice. The fact that kids and families are cooking together gives you great hope that the next generation will eat better and better. I’m a cook because of my family — I cooked with my grandma when I was Chloe’s age and some of my proudest moments were when I helped my grandma,” he said.

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