Chehalis fourth-grader is one of five national finalists in 2024 Sodexo Future Chefs National Challenge

Public voting runs May 6 to May 17 


Orin Smith Elementary School fourth-grader Kason Talanoa has been selected as one of five national finalists for the 2024 Sodexo Future Chefs National Challenge. 

Kason and his elote recipe qualified by placing first in the local Chehalis School District Future Chefs competition in March. He was selected as one of 40 regional finalists before being chosen from that pool of competitors. 

“A panel of esteemed judges reviewed and voted on the recipes based on originality, healthy attributes, ease of preparation, kid friendliness and adaptability for school lunch. After reviewing hundreds of recipes, five students were selected as the National Future Chefs Finalists,” Sodexo stated in a news release. 

When asked if there was anything he wanted to say after his elotes won first place in the 2024 Sodexo Future Chefs National Challenge at Orin Smith Elementary School in Chehalis on March 7, Kason said, “Never give up.”

The public is invited to help choose the national winner by voting online between Monday, May 6 and Friday, May 17. 

“Each finalist has submitted a video of them preparing their dish and the public is being asked to cast their vote for their favorite,” Sodexo said. 

Kason was set to film his video on April 25, and the video will be up online during the voting period. 

To view the finalists’ videos and to vote, visit

This year, 34 Chehalis elementary school students submitted healthy recipes inspired by their favorite lunch meals, and eight were selected to participate in the district-wide finals event. Finalists had two hours to prepare and present their creations before being assessed on criteria including originality, taste, kid friendliness and use of healthy ingredients.