Temple Chai members Danya and Liana Sherman are no strangers to competing under pressure. The sisters, who both graduated from Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, have competed and won several national theatrical figure skating titles. So, when the teens were selected to be contestants on Food Ball, a 10-week cooking competition program that pits teams of Valley high school teens against each other to win cash prizes while learning basic cooking skills, they hoped to draw on that ability to stay calm under duress.
“It was really fun and we were humbled to be a part of the show,” says Danya, a rising freshman at George Washington University. Liana is now a sophomore at GWU.
The 60-minute show, which uses football metaphors to see “who can score with the best on-field performance while amassing the fewest penalties for violation of food safety and procedural rules,” airs on AZ-TV7/Cable 13, according to a press release. The winners will be revealed at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 25.
After a one-day crash Food Ball Training Camp to learn proper food preparation techniques, the teens take part in a competition judged by a panel of three food professionals and monitored by a roving “chef ref” who at one point in the show blows an air horn, which Danya admits did rattle her. The teens are asked to prepare two courses using predetermined recipes and ingredients, as well as a mystery ingredient that one team can “punt” to the other with a chance of getting a better ingredient.
For the Sherman sisters, who both keep kosher, the funniest moment during the taping occurred when they were presented with the mystery container that had shrimp. (Also, Liana is allergic to shellfish.) “When they opened the [container] and it was shrimp, I nudged Liana and we gave each other a look – its meaning was immediately understood. We both hoped it would not be punted to us to use in our recipe,” Danya says. But the other team punted, leaving the Sherman sisters no choice but to use it in the recipe. The episode focused on Liana’s allergy because they wanted to show that even when chefs have allergies, they still have to prepare what people ask them to make, says the girls’ mother, Hope Sherman.
The sisters have been active members of the Jewish community, serving on the board of the B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy program, and both are honors graduates of the Phoenix High School of Jewish Studies.
Now, both are headed to GWU and they can take some valuable cooking lessons with them. “I am proud to have learned so much about the world of cuisine with my sister by my side, “ Liana says. Danya adds, “It was an exercise in teamwork. I’m so proud of what we accomplished.”