Three teams of high school students from across the state will cultivate culinary creativity in the 2024 North Carolina Jr. Chef Competition. Based on applications and recipes submitted, teams from First Flight High (Dare County Schools), Garinger High (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools), and Northern High (Durham Public Schools) will compete as finalists in the statewide cook-off.
For the N.C. Jr. Chef Competition, teams of two to four students (grades 9-12) enrolled in North Carolina public schools are challenged to work with an adult team supervisor, a public school educator or School Nutrition administrator, to develop a creative recipe for a school lunch entrée. The recipes must meet the National School Lunch Program nutrition standards, include at least two North Carolina-grown products and one USDA Foods item, be replicable by School Nutrition Programs, and also appeal to student tastes.
For the recipe contest phase of the competition, teams submit applications with recipes, nutrient and cost analysis, and recipe photos. Based on a review of applications and recipes submitted, finalist teams are selected to advance to the cook-off phase of the competition.
For the cook-off phase of the competition, which has a deadline of February 19, teams will submit a video of their student chefs preparing and plating their school lunch entrée recipe. Along with the video, teams will resubmit their applications, recipes and recipe photos, and nutrient and cost analysis, incorporating feedback from the recipe review panel. In addition, they will turn in a work plan for how they will prepare their dish within the
90-minute time limit. Teams will present their dishes March 11 or 12 during virtual, live interviews with a panel of evaluators. Evaluators can ask questions and share feedback with the teams during the interviews. Teams will be evaluated for their ability to work together to demonstrate valuable skills in recipe development, food preparation, safety and sanitation, organization, and presentation and knowledge of nutrition, farm to school, and local food systems.
All N.C. Jr. Chef finalist teams will be recognized, and the competition results will be announced on March 13. Teams will be invited to participate in a virtual awards ceremony with their families, teachers, principals, School Nutrition directors, superintendents, and public information officers. Team members will receive N.C. Jr. Chef coats, hats, and aprons along with certificates and medals based on team scores. First, second, and third place teams will receive plaques to display in their school, and the first-place team will have the honor of hosting the competition trophy until the next cook-off. Sullivan University in Kentucky will offer scholarships to the student members of the top three teams. The first-place state team will advance to the 2024 Southeast Jr. Chef Competition at Nashville State Community College May 9-10.
The Junior Chef Competition was created to inspire the next generation of culinary professionals, stimulate interest in locally produced agriculture, increase participation in School Nutrition Programs, provide nutrition education, and encourage healthy eating habits. 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, and the Farm to School Coalition of North Carolina.
Additional information about the North Carolina Jr. Chef Competition is available online. More information regarding School Nutrition Programs in North Carolina can be found on the NCDPI, Office of School Nutrition website.
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