DURHAM, N.C. — Eight high school teams are competing in the 2023 North Carolina Junior Chef Competition. The task is to create a recipe students would want to eat for lunch in their school cafeteria. One of the finalist groups is a team of students from Northern High School in Durham.

What You Need To Know

  • Eight high school teams are competing in the 2023 North Carolina Junior Chef Competition

  • The groups created recipes that could be served at school cafeterias and had to meet certain guidelines

  • The results of the competition will be announced on March 30

“It's just kind of like an escape for me. I just enjoy cooking, so this class has been really fun and beneficial,” said Kendall Keaton, a senior at Northern High School. “The recipe-building process has been really fun for me and then finally seeing that recipe truly come to life is really, really cool.”

The culinary classroom at Northern High gives students a hands-on experience in a large-scale kitchen.

“The class as a whole is really built around the idea of workplace readiness, not just for restaurants, but for being prepared to leave high school, go out, get a job and be successful,” said chef Peter Brodsky, a cooking instructor at Northern High.

It’s Brodsky’s eighth year teaching at Northern, but it’s his first time entering a cooking competition with his students.

“Students were challenged to create a recipe that can be featured in school cafeterias across the state at elementary, middle and high schools,” Brodsky said.

The Northern High School Junior Chef Competition team. (Spectrum News 1/Kyleigh Panetta)

As part of the N.C. Junior Chef Competition, a team of four student chefs at Northern High came up with a unique recipe that meets specific nutrition and cost guidelines.

“So what they did was a sweet potato steamed bun with the honey garlic glazed chicken, and they topped it with a kale salad with just some Braeburn apples and an Asian vinaigrette. It was really nice,” Brodsky said.

Having the Durham Public Schools Hub Farm nearby was helpful, because they were also challenged to use North Carolina-grown ingredients.

“Just so they could show that they’ve really cared for these products from beginning to end and not just that they know how to cook with them, but they understand the sourcing, they understand the growing,” Brodsky said.

Whether these students decide to work in the culinary industry or not, this competition has served as a valuable learning opportunity.

“It is great for building up teamwork, and it just really brings a whole new line of sight to appreciating cafeteria workers,” said Alex Demaeyer, a senior at Northern High.

The seven other schools selected as finalists to compete in the 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), Swain County High and Weaver Academy (Guilford County Schools).

Results will be announced March 30.