Glenn Hackett wins “Ben’s Beginners” Rice Cooking Contest!

--- Published on December 13th 2018 ---
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Photo of Glenn Hackett and his monther

How often does a 7-year-old win $45,000?

Meet Glenn Hackett, a 2nd-grader at Witter Ranch Elementary who was surprised to learn at a school assembly today that he had was a grand prize winner in the national “Ben’s Beginners” rice cooking contest.

Glenn and his mother, Yolanda, submitted a beef, broccoli, rice, and teriyaki sauce dish to the contest, spearheaded by Uncle Ben’s rice. They were presented at the school assembly Thursday (Dec. 13) with oversized checks totaling $15,000 for the family and $30,000 for the school.

Asked how he felt about winning the contest, Glenn said it was “really awesome.” His mother added that she felt “joyful.” Their words were brief, perhaps, but their smiles spoke volumes as TV cameras captured the announcement and subsequent elation.

Yolanda Ortega-Hackett, who works as a bilingual interpreter at Witter Ranch, said she expects to tuck some of the $15,000 away toward Glenn’s education and perhaps use a chunk of the rest for a down payment on a house. The family currently is renting.

“Ben’s Beginners” is a contest designed to inspire families to spend more time cooking together. Parents and kids submit entries that are judged on creativity, presentation, appetite appeal, and reflection of the family-cooking theme. Once 25 finalists were selected, the public voted online to help choose Glenn and four other grand prize winners.

Sara Schulte, a contest spokeswoman, said the cooking photo submitted by Glenn and his mother in their entry exuded sheer joy.

Yolanda said the beef broccoli dish is Glenn’s favorite. The two did not know they had won before the school assembly. In fact, Glenn thought the purpose of the gathering was to talk about healthy eating, and Yolanda was told that Principal Patrick Birdsong wanted her there for language translation.

Principal Birdsong described Glenn as a great kid. “He’s quiet, studious, he pays attention, does his homework, he’s always on time, he’s consistent behaviorally – he wants to help others and help his mom in the classroom with other kids.”

For a 7-year-old to win a national contest could do wonders for a child’s confidence and self-image, Birdsong noted, adding that cooking also requires elements of math, science, cooperation, and other things that Witter Ranch Hawks are practicing in classrooms.

Birdsong said the contest’s mission to encourage family cooking also could have long-lasting positive benefits, creating stronger bonds in which parents and kids decide to do other things together in an era when many children tend to focus on video screens.

Excited by the $30,000 prize to the school, Birdsong said possibilities range from adding hydration stations to creating a campus garden. The money is designed to benefit the school’s cafeteria or food consumption. Students, parents and staff will be solicited for input before a decision is made, the principal said.

Glenn wants to continue spending plenty of time in his family’s kitchen – in fact, he told his principal that he wants to make pasta next. He and his mother cook together often, usually on weekends. Career possibilities? Glenn smiles and says he wants to be a “cooker.”