Boaz 7-Year-Old Wins National Cooking Contest

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BOAZ, Ala. (WHNT) -- A Corley Elementary School second grader is the winner of a national cooking contest.

At 8:30 in the morning Thursday, Boaz High School's gym is full of energy. Students cram every inch of the floor and bleachers, teachers look on carefully. A row of chairs holds state and local officials, including Alabama's First Lady Dianne Bentley.

At the front of the room is one student who is the reason why they are there. She's wearing a skirt and bright pink boots. Her blond hair is held back with a matching headband. The students, teachers, and officials know her. You might know her too, if you voted.

Her name is Claire Noles. She entered Ben's Beginner's Cooking Contest several months ago.  Along with her mom, she submitted a video of the two of them cooking a recipe using Uncle Ben's Ready Rice. People from all over the country voted on the videos to determine three finalists. The grand prize? A trip to be on the Rachael Ray Show and $30,000 for a lunchroom makeover for her school, to name some of the winnings.

The reason why she's sitting in front of hundreds of people Thursday morning is because she's a finalist. Now, there's an even bigger accomplishment on  the line: a winner.

Hands clenched, she stares at her lap as a representative from Uncle Ben's reads a note in front everyone in the gym.  Eventually come the words she, her parents, her school, and her community have been hoping to hear. "I'm proud to announce the grand prize winner ... Claire Noles."

"I'm really proud," Claire says grinning.

Claire's school, Corley Elementary, needed a new lunchroom. Claire realized that, saw the contest and went straight to her principal Ashley Walls.

"I'm so proud of her because it's amazing when a kid has a plan," said Walls.  "A 7-year-old kid has a plan."

So now Corley is getting $30,000 to make over its lunchroom. "I think we should get some new tables, and a flat screen TV that comes down from the roof," Claire said with a smile.

Alabama's First Lady Dianne Bentley took the time to congratulate Claire. "She's showing a great deal of poise and maturity and she seems very smart, so I see a great future in front of her," Bentley says.

A future Claire hopes includes being a chef - but maybe since she's only 7, she'll stick to the easy things for now.  "Supper tonight," Claire says with a grin.