Palmer secondary student Christa Yeung is used to sharing her creative side through the rhythm of her bass guitar.
But recently, she traded her frets and strings for bowls and spoons and won a recipe contest hosted by a Richmond food producer to make a uniquely flavoured gyoza (dumpling).
Christa, who graduates this June and plays in her school's jazz band, spent a good portion of her recent spring break perfecting her recipe for a cilantro and pork gyoza with diced water chestnuts for an unexpected crunch.
The contest, called Gyoza Wars, was hosted by Richmond-based Fine Choice Foods and open to high school students who were asked to not only come up with a recipe, but a short video clip pitching their creation. And in Christa's case, that not only packed plenty of flavour, but personal expression, too.
"Making food is a very personal thing. I like music for the same reason," Christa said. "You can play straight off a sheet of music, but you can also change it up with your own style. When you cook something, you're making your own creation. You're taking flour and sugar - just plain ingredients - but when you mix them, you can produce something entirely new.
"Plus, it's nice that you can share your efforts with others and allow them to enjoy the flavours you've made."
Christa's interest in cooking was piqued by watching You Tube videos by a variety of
chefs. Plus, she considers herself a bit of a TV show food junkie. And while she concedes no single celebrity TV chef is her favourite, she does enjoy the Food Network Canada program Recipes to Riches where contestants vie for their recipes to be featured for sale among other President's Choice brand items.
By winning Gyoza Wars, she is living out that scenario, as Christa's recipe will be on the shelves of Choices grocery stores in late June to July - possibly longer if sales demand is high enough.
"That's going to be really cool. I kinda feel like a food superstar," she said, laughing.
So, what's in her gyoza that made the judges sit up and take notice? "The cilantro gives it a fresh flavour and the spice kind of lasts in your mouth. I think that's what made it very special," Christa said, adding the water chestnuts were her mom's suggestion after a few rounds of taste testing.
The pork is spiced with salt, sugar, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and chilli sauce to give it some zing.
"Originally, I had mayo, but that didn't really add anything to the flavour," she said, adding that was ditched.
When she paid a recent visit to the research and development kitchen at Fine Choice Foods to consult with their experts in translating her recipe for commercial scale production, some other ingredients were added. Cabbage, a usual staple in gyoza, was on the list because it helps reduce production costs and adds moisture to the gyoza, which are frozen prior to shipping.
Potato starch was also added to absorb water during the cooking process.
But despite the tweaks, Christa said the finished product was pretty faithful to her recipe.
"It still had the good flavour," she said. "We chose Christa because her flavour was unique and something that we felt would resonate with our customers," said Adelina Wong, marketing coordinator at Fine Choice Foods. "She had also put a lot of effort into her presentation and her (contest entry) video was a lot of fun."
In her brief pitch, Christa stressed that food is akin to a language everyone can understand. It can bring cultures together, she said.
While she has no immediate plans to specialize in the culinary world, Christa says she enjoys working in the kitchen on what she considers a hobby.
After graduation, Christa is going to attend UBC with a view at majoring in geography.
"Ultimately, I want to go into urban planning," she said, "because I am interested in environmental infrastructure."