The “Spice Girls” North Carolina Jr. Chef Team from Apex High in Wake County won second place in the 2022 Southeast Jr. Chef Competition on Friday at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky. Their recipe was a twist on a traditional Mexican street food: a masa shell topped with seasoned chicken, beans, pineapple salsa, cabbage, queso fresco and crema. The team competed with five other state teams in the regional cook-off. Each of the North Carolina student team members, Courtney McKinnon, Jissel Morales-Ledesma, Casey Murphy, and Kayla Ray, receive an $8,000 scholarship to attend Sullivan University.
The Georgia Jr. Chef team from Lanier College and Career Academy won first place and $10,000 scholarships for their Southern Sweet and Sour Chicken Bowl. “The Cubs That Cook” Tennessee Jr. Chef team from Sevier County High School won third place and $5,000 scholarships for each team member with their Twisted Hot Chicken with Jalapeno Red Skin Smashed Potatoes and Bell Pepper Coleslaw. The “Chop It Like It’s Hot” Alabama Jr. Chef team (Spicy Vegetables Crowned with Juicy Chicken) and the “Kershaw County Culinary Crafters” South Carolina Jr. Chef team (Cranberry Apple Chicken Quinoa Bowl) received honorable mentions.
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt shared in the excitement for the students.
“This is an incredible accomplishment for the Apex High Spice Girls,” Truitt shared. “This is a team that let their ingenuity and skills take them to the next level, and the scholarships they received are a testament to this. I’m hopeful this group will share their recipe with me so I can consider recreating.”
High school students from schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeastern Region are eligible for the Southeast Jr. Chef Competition. Students were challenged to work with their local School Nutrition Programs to develop a school lunch entrée recipe to adhere to national nutrition standards, include at least two ingredients grown in their state and one USDA Foods item, and appeal to student taste preferences.
For the Southeast Jr. Chef Competition, teams have 90 minutes to prepare their dish and five minutes to present their recipe and student taste-test results to evaluators. Teams submitted their applications, recipe photos, and recipes with cost and nutrition analysis in advance for review.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched the Southeast Jr. Chef Competition in 2018 and challenged each of the states in the Southeast to identify a team of students to represent their state through the competition. The N.C. Jr. Chef Competition is a partnership of the School Nutrition and Career and Technical Education Divisions at NCDPI, the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Farm to School Program, N.C. FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) and the Farm to School Coalition of North Carolina. The goals of the Jr. Chef Competition are to encourage students across the region to be involved in the creation of healthier eating habits that will improve their health now and, in the future, inspire the next generation of culinary professionals, stimulate interest in farm to school and including locally-sourced agricultural products into School Nutrition Programs, and ultimately increase consumption of healthier products in school meals.
More details about the N.C. Jr. Chef Competition are available online. Additional information regarding School Nutrition Programs in North Carolina can be found on the School Nutrition Division website. USDA and NCDPI are equal opportunity providers and employers.
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