On Saturday, May 9, first place high school winners at the local cook-off competition will progress to the National Best Teen Chef Final Round at The Art Institute of Charlotte. It all began on March 14, when hundreds of high school seniors from across the U.S. and Canada put down their ipods, rested their texting thumbs, and focused their sights on launching what could be the beginning of their professional culinary careers.
According to the Art Institute, “the top prize winner in the competition can earn a full-tuition scholarship toward a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, certificate program or diploma program to study Culinary Arts at one of the more than 30 participating Art Institutes locations.
“In addition to a full-tuition scholarship and the title of Best Teen Chef 2009, the national first place winner, in partnership with Food Network, will be an “Intern for a Day” at Food Network Kitchens in New York City. The winner will also receive a tour of Food Network’s studios, dinner for two at a Food Network chef’s restaurant and a library of Food Network Kitchens cookbooks”
There are thirty Art Institute locations that offer a culinary program. In order to be eligible for the competition the teens were required to submit a completed entry and release form to a participating Art Institutes school offering a Culinary Arts program; after submitting the form, the teens then represented that particular school.
Next the aspiring chefs had to tender their favorite recipe, an optional original photo of the prepared recipe, a copy of their current high school transcript, and a 250-word essay explaining why they would like to study culinary art at The Art Institutes.
During the local competition the candidates become acquainted with applicable rules, toured the kitchens, asked questions about equipment, and work station expectations. The judging is based on how clean and organized they work, sanitation guidelines, and technical skills. But the bulk of the awarded points are based on taste and presentation in a timely manner.
Star-Tribune’s Jasa Santos looked in on Erik Johnson, a line cook and a senior at Natrona County High School; Erik was practicing at Casper Country Club for the May 9 finals.
“The seasoning is great. The fish could be cooked a little bit less, but it’s still moist. The doneness of the rice is perfect. It’s just a little bland.”
“Finally,”writes, Sanots, “the judge tested the julienned vegetables, a mix of sliced sweet potatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, onions and garlic”.
“Perfect seasoning on your vegetables,” said Toni Dovalina, the executive chef at the Casper Country Club. “This is better than the last time you did it. But we can still improve on it.”
Erik previously won a $3,000 scholarship but looks forward to winning the upcoming competition, as well as a day of interning at the Food Network Kitchens in New York City.
“Each year we see the interest in this competition grow,”says Chef Michael Nenes, Assistant Vice President of Culinary Arts for The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes. “Teenagers still in high school are demonstrating the determination, focus and drive needed to have a career in the challenging field of culinary arts.”
“Based on classical Escoffier, Asian and Latin culinary techniques, with an emphasis on progressive trends and practices, the schools’ curriculum are designed to develop and sharpen fundamental cooking techniques and professional skills and introduce a variety of international cuisines. Internships, student-run school restaurants, guest lectures and Web-based seminars, and study abroad programs help broaden the scope of learning for students”
In addition to a full-tuition scholarship and the title of Best Teen Chef 2009, the national first place winner will be an “Intern for a Day” at Food Network Kitchens in New York City. The winner will also receive a tour of Food Network’s studios, dinner for two at a Food Network chef’s restaurant and a library of Food Network Kitchens cookbooks, in partnership with Food Network. Aldo Sandoval, local Best Teen Chef winner at The Art Institute of Dallas for 2008, says the competition “was an amazing opportunity to meet kids from all over the country with the same ambition as you”