Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Durham’s Northern High Wins 2024 NC Jr. Chef Competition

Three high school teams competed as finalists in the annual North Carolina Jr. Chef Competition to create unique school lunch entrée recipes – and today one was crowned the winner.
Mar 13, 2024
Junior Chef state logo

Three high school teams competed as finalists in the annual North Carolina Jr. Chef Competition to create unique school lunch entrée recipes – and today one was crowned the winner. The Flaming Knights from Northern High School (Durham Public Schools) won first place and a silver medal for their crispy taquitos recipe.

High school students across the state were challenged to work with their teachers and School Nutrition administrators to develop creative recipes for school lunch entrées that are compliant with School Nutrition program standards, include at least two North Carolina-grown products and one USDA Foods item, are replicable by School Nutrition programs and are appealing to students.

2024 NCJCC - Northern HS Team

The winning Northern High team created a healthier version of taquitos, a student favorite. They sautéed chicken with a variety of spices and added diced cabbage and onions, julienned zucchini, grated carrots and black beans. The junior chefs wrapped the filling in whole grain tortillas, which they baked in the oven to crisp. They served the taquitos with a homemade spicy chipotle dipping sauce. The recipe featured North Carolina-grown cabbage, onions and zucchini.  

The two other finalists were the GHS team from Garinger High School (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) and the Nighthawks team from First Flight High School (Dare County Schools).

GHS won second place and a silver medal for their “Le Ramsay” dish. The students featured flavors from their Hispanic heritage in a twist on fajitas with orange rice and fresas con crema. The team achieved their goal of creating a recipe to celebrate the diversity of their culture and school. The recipe featured North Carolina-grown beef, peppers and strawberries.

Crispy Chicken Taquitos

The Nighthawks won third place and a silver medal for their chicken cordon bleu with orzo rice and mushroom demi-glace. The team worked with school and local chefs to create their version of an elevated comfort food often found on restaurant menus. The recipe featured North Carolina-grown broccoli, spinach, mushrooms and Carolina Gold rice.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt offered her congratulations to the finalists, who all showcased exceptional culinary skills.

“The NC Jr. Chef Competition is a wonderful opportunity for students to practice and enhance essential skills for life and  explore career opportunities,” Truitt said. “Students apply lessons learned in the classroom to a real-world project – creating recipes for school meals that adhere to federal regulations, feature North Carolina-grown ingredients and appeal to students.”

All finalist teams submitted an application that included their recipe, a photo of the completed dish, nutrient and cost analyses, a work plan for preparing the entrée within 90 minutes and a video of their team preparing and plating their creation. The junior chefs also participated in a virtual interview to present their entrée to a panel of judges. 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 practices and public presentation. 

In a virtual awards ceremony today, students from all three finalist teams received their own NC Jr. Chef coats and hats. They also receive certificates and medals based on team scores, plaques to display in their schools and scholarship offers from Sullivan University in Kentucky.

The first-place team has the honor of hosting the competition trophy until next year and advances to compete at the regional level in the Southeast Jr. Chef Competition at Nashville State Community College in Tennessee in May.

The NC Jr. 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 NC 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 competition was planned by the Offices of School Nutrition and Career and Technical Education at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services’ Farm to School ProgramFarm to School Coalition of North Carolina and the School Nutrition Association of North Carolina.

Additional information about the NC Jr. Chef Competition is available online at More information regarding School Nutrition Programs in North Carolina can be found on the Office of School Nutrition website.

The USDA and NCDPI are equal opportunity providers and employers.

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the responsible state or local agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

To file a program discrimination complaint, a Complainant should complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form which can be obtained online, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted to USDA by:  

  1. mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
    1400 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
  2. (833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442; or
  3. email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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