Local students compete in culinary arts competition

Two Lexington-Richland School District Five students have been selected to compete in the South Carolina Farm to School Junior Chef Competition.

The competition, hosted by the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, features several school districts across the state.

Culinary teams consist of two to five team members in grades ninth through twelve. The team representing School District Five is from the Center for Advanced Technical Studies (The Center). The team includes Spring Hill High sophomore Kelsey McKnight and Dutch Fork High sophomore Ethan Paulk. They are being led under the supervision of Chef Patrick Duggan.

“This is the second time that we have had students compete in this competition,” said Chef Duggan, culinary arts instructor at The Center. “We are really excited to compete because we will be defending our title. This competition gives our students the opportunity to demonstrate their culinary skills in a competitive environment.”

To enter, teams submitted a completed application packet along with their recipe and nutritional analysis. Submitted applications were then scored on a competitive basis with the highest scoring teams competing for a chance to be the South Carolina Junior Chef Champion.

Junior Chef recipes must contain at least five local ingredients, meet National School Lunch Program guidelines, and must be relatively easy for school food service staff to replicate. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the competition is virtual this year. Students will record themselves making the dish and submit that video along with the recipe to the judging panel. The students will participate in a virtual question and answer session with the judges. Their recipe will be prepared by another chef who will present their dish to the judges. Recipes will be judged by taste, appearance, creativity, best and most use of local ingredients, and appropriateness for school food service systems.

The team is making a healthy steak and farro grain dish.

“I am so excited to compete and 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. We now get to use those techniques in a new environment and compete against other districts across the state. I am ready for this great learning experience.”

Ethan Paulk feels the training he has received in his culinary classes at The Center will help give the team an advantage at the competition.

“I like our odds in this competition because I know some other schools don’t get to start cooking until the second semester,” Paulk said. “We have an extra semester of training, and Chef Duggan is a very good chef and a wonderful teacher who has prepared us to compete on this level. I feel very confident that we can win this competition.”

The winning team will from the competition will move on to represent South Carolina in the national competition in June.