Two District Five students from the Center for Advanced Technical Studies (The Center) have won first place in the South Carolina Farm to School Junior Chef Competition. The annual event is sponsored by The South Carolina Department of Education: Office of Health and Nutrition (OHN) in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School initiative.
The team included Spring Hill High sophomore Kelsey McKnight and Dutch Fork High sophomore Ethan Paulk. They were led under the supervision of Chef Patrick Duggan. The team made a Tex-Mex Grain bowl.
The competition is designed to encourage student engagement with National School Lunch Program (NSLP) nutrition staff, chef instructors, and other culinary professionals to learn the process of planning, sourcing, and preparing school meals and featured several school districts across the state. Students had the opportunity to demonstrate their culinary skills in a competitive environment while gaining valuable knowledge in recipe development, food preparation, teamwork, and local food systems.
“This is the second time that we have had students compete in this competition,” said Chef Duggan, culinary arts instructor at The Center. “I am so proud of Kelsey and Ethan because they defended our title. This competition gives our students the opportunity to demonstrate their culinary skills in a competitive environment.”
Each team submitted original recipes and videos highlighting locally sourced South Carolina products combined with USDA Foods items to create nutritious, delicious items that may be utilized in the NSLP. Each nutritious recipe will be made available to district Food Service Directors around the state for use in their school nutrition programs. The judging for the contest was a little different for this school year. Teams were judged based on their recipe packet, a video of them producing the recipe, and a proxy taste test performed by OHN staff.
“I am so excited that we won and could represent School District Five,” said Kelsey McKnight. “I am honored that Chef Duggan picked me and Ethan to work together because he loves the way that we always have a good attitude in class and have experience with different styles of cooking.”
Ethan Paulk feels the training he has received in his culinary classes at The Center gave the team an advantage at the competition.
“I liked our odds in this competition because I know some other schools don’t get to start cooking until the second semester,” Paulk said. “I am excited that we won and happy that we had this opportunity.”
The first, second, and third-place teams will all receive scholarships to Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky. McKnight and Paulk will represent South Carolina in the regional competition in Kentucky, if travel restrictions are lifted.
“How exciting that Ethan and Kelsey placed first in the Junior Chef Farm to School competition,” said Director of Career and Technical Education Dr. Al Gates. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for first-year Culinary Arts students. Ethan and Kelsey used their knowledge and skills to develop a healthy meal using mostly South Carolina products that can be prepared and served in schools. Kelsey and Ethan were judged not only on the presentation and taste of their unique dish, but also on following food safety procedures. Chef Duggan is to be commended for the excellence of the Culinary Arts program at The Center. We are very proud of Ethan, Kelsey, and Chef Duggan.”
Pictured left to right: Kelsey McKnight, Chef Patrick Duggan, Ethan Paulk.