Based on recipes they submitted, the teams selected as finalists to compete in a statewide cook-off are from Apex High (Wake County Public Schools), Ashe County High, Brevard High (Transylvania County Schools), Franklin High (Macon County Schools), Havelock High (Craven County Schools), Northern High (Durham Public Schools), Swain County High, and Weaver Academy (Guilford County Schools).
For the NC Jr. Chef Competition, teams of two to four students (grades 9-12) enrolled in North Carolina public schools are challenged to work with either an 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, including at least two North Carolina-grown products and one USDA Foods item, be replicable by School Nutrition Programs, and appeal to student tastes. This year, at least one of the two North Carolina-grown ingredients must be cabbage (red or green), dark leafy greens (collard greens, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, romaine, spinach, Swiss chard), legumes/beans and peas, sweet potatoes, winter squash, or wheat.
For the initial recipe round of the competition, teams submitted their recipes along with nutrient and cost analysis and recipe photos. Based on a review of applications and recipes submitted, the finalist teams were selected to advance to the cook-off phase of the competition.
For the cook-off phase of the competition, which has a deadline of March 10, the student chefs will submit a video of their teams preparing and plating their school lunch entrée recipe. Along with the video, teams will also resubmit their recipes, photos, and nutrient and cost analysis, incorporating feedback from the recipe review panel. In addition, they will submit a work plan for how they will prepare their dish within the 90-minute time limit. Teams will present their dishes on March 28 or 29 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, presentation and knowledge of nutrition, farm to school, and local food systems.
All NC Jr. Chef finalist teams will be recognized, and the results will be announced March 30. 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 NC 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 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 agriculture, increase participation in School Nutrition Programs, provide nutrition education, and encourage healthy eating habits. The NC Jr. Chef Competition was planned by the Offices of School Nutrition and Career and Technical Education at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction in partnership with the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services’ Farm to School Program, Farm to School Coalition of North Carolina, and the School Nutrition Association of North Carolina. The NC Jr. Chef Competition was woven into a Team Nutrition Training Grant NCDPI received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop appealing, standardized recipes for school meals featuring locally grown ingredients.
USDA and NCDPI are equal-opportunity providers and employers. 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.