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Chapel Hill 12-Year-Old Wins White House Recipe Challenge & Meets The President

Vijay Dey at the White House Kids' State Dinner on July 9.
Mei Dey

Twelve-year-old Chapel Hill resident Vijay Dey took a special trip to the White House last week after being selected as one of 54 nationwide winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a program sponsored by food website Epicurious and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative. The Challenge asked young chefs to submit a healthy recipe that meets the USDA’s MyPlate standards, meaning half of the dish is comprised of fruits and vegetables. They also were encouraged to submit the story behind the dish.

Dey’s winning recipe was for Spring Rolls, a dish he said was inspired by his grandfather. “My grandpa makes that recipe and I thought it tasted really good,” Dey said. “And it fit with the MyPlate food group categories.”

Dey was the single North Carolina winner and attended the Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on July 9. After remarks by the First Lady, President Barack Obama made a surprise visit and met with the children and their parents:

“I was excited!” Dey said of that moment. “I’d never seen the president before in real life, and most people never have. He seemed very friendly.”

Read about the five best moments from the Kids’ State Dinner on the Let’s Move blog. Here’s Vijay’s recipe:

Spring Rolls (makes 6 to 8 servings)

Ingredients for Vijay's spring rolls recipe.
Credit Mei Dey
Ingredients for Vijay's spring rolls recipe.


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 5 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 2 cups chopped napa cabbage
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 5 fresh shiitake mushrooms,sliced
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 3 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 24 spring roll wrappers


  1. In a medium bowl, marinate the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, soy sauce, and cornstarch.
  2. In a wok or sauté pan over moderate heat, warm the vegetable and sesame oils. Add the bean sprouts, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, scallions, and ginger and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the marinated chicken and sauté, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 8 minutes.
    Preparation of the spring rolls.
    Credit Mei Dey
    Preparation of the spring rolls.
  3. Fill a pie plate with warm water. Immerse 1 spring roll wrapper in the water until pliable, about 15 seconds, then transfer to a cutting board. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling down the center of the wrapper. Fold the bottom of the wrapper over the filling then fold both sides into the center, and roll the wrapper up tightly to form a spring roll. Transfer the spring roll to a plate and keep covered with a damp paper towel. Repeat with the remaining spring roll wrappers and filling.

295 calories; 20g protein; 25g carbohydrates; 14g fat (2g saturated fat); 771mg sodium

Laura moved from Chattanooga to Chapel Hill in 2013 to join WUNC as a web producer. She graduated from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in the spring of 2012 and has created radio and multimedia stories for a variety of outlets, including Marketplace, Prairie Public, and Maine Public Broadcasting. When she's not out hunting stories, you can usually find her playing the fiddle.
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