Eight high school finalist teams competed in the annual North Carolina Jr. Chef cook-off this month to create unique school lunch entrée recipes. The “Waffle House” team from Apex High with Wake County Public Schools won first place in the 2023 North Carolina Jr. Chef Competition. Their Sweet Potato Waffle with Maple Barbeque Chicken and Apple Slaw won top honors and a silver medal.
The Apex High team worked to create a healthier version of fried chicken and waffles, a student favorite. They made sweet and savory waffles from scratch incorporating sweet potatoes and chives. Baked maple-barbecue glazed chicken and a fresh slaw with cabbage, apples, and carrots accompanied the waffles. The recipe featured North Carolina-grown sweet potatoes, cabbage, apples, chicken, and milk.
The “NHS Culinary” team from Northern High with Durham Public Schools won second place and a silver medal for their Honey Garlic Glazed Chicken on Sweet Potato Steamed Buns, with Kale and Apple Salad. The “Ridgerunners” team from Swain County High won third place and a silver medal for their Blueberry Chicken Salad Wrap.
All the teams showcased their skills in the culinary competition. The Ashe County High “Huskies” team (Kickin’ Chicken with Rice), Franklin High “Panthers” team from Macon County Schools (Smoky Mountain Cajun Pizza), Brevard High “Culinary Devils” team from Transylvania County Schools (Thai Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken), and Havelock High “HHS Jr. Chef” team from Craven County Schools (Rainbow Veggie Wraps) also received silver medals. The Weaver Academy “Paje” team from Guilford County Schools (Oven Baked Chicken Sandwich) received a bronze medal.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt offered her congratulations to all the winning teams and said she wished she could have been one of the evaluators for the N.C. Jr. Chef cook-off.
“I wish these dishes were served when I was in school. They all sound creative and delicious,” Truitt said. “The winners and their teachers truly demonstrated the type of hands-on skill development happening in our schools that help students be marketable after graduation.”
The high school students were challenged to work with their teachers and School Nutrition administrators to develop a creative recipe for a school lunch entrée that met a list of requirements: compliant with School Nutrition Program standards, included at least two North Carolina-grown products and one USDA Foods item, replicable by School Nutrition Programs, and appealing to students. For the competition, all finalist teams submitted an application with their recipe, recipe photo, nutrient and cost analysis, a work plan for preparing the entree within 90-minutes, and a video of their team preparing and plating their creation. The Jr. Chefs also participated in a virtual interview to present their entree to a panel of evaluators. Teams were evaluated on their recipe development, use of locally grown ingredients, culinary and food safety skills, organization, teamwork, knowledge of nutrition and farm to school, and public presentation.
N.C. Jr. Chef finalist teams were recognized today through a virtual awards ceremony. The students received their own N.C. Jr. Chef coats and hats. They also received certificates and medals based on team scores. First, second, and third-place teams received plaques to display in their schools, and the first-place team has the honor of hosting the competition trophy until the next cook-off. Sullivan University in Kentucky will offer scholarships to the members of the top three teams. The first place N.C. Jr. Chef team advances to compete at the regional level in the Southeast Jr. Chef Competition at Sullivan University in May.
The Junior Chef Competition was created to inspire the next generation of culinary professionals, stimulate interest in locally produced agricultural products, increase participation in School Nutrition Programs, provide nutrition education, and encourage healthy eating habits. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Office of School Nutrition will work with the teams to scale up their recipes for preparation by school meal programs and create nutrition education and promotional resources for the recipes and the North Carolina ingredients used.
The N.C. Jr. Chef Competition was planned by the Offices of School Nutrition and Career and Technical Education at the Department of Public Instruction in partnership with the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services’ Farm to School Program, Farm to School Coalition of North Carolina, and the School Nutrition Association of North Carolina.
USDA and NCDPI are equal opportunity providers and employers. Additional information about the N.C. Jr. Chef Competition is available online. More information regarding School Nutrition Programs in North Carolina can be found on the Office of School Nutrition website.
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