Young Culinary Talent Lights Up Texas School Recipe Competitions

Culinary ingenuity was on full display as students from middle and elementary schools in two Texas districts donned their chef hats and honed their cooking abilities to showcase their finest creations in an annual recipe showdown. “The recipe contests are a delightful avenue to engage students interested in culinary science,” remarked Jill Gouge-Laird, Marketing Director – South Region, Aramark Student Nutrition. “Students not only learn about food ingredients and cooking techniques but also realize the importance of healthy eating for a better lifestyle.”

The competitions, held at Texas’ Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District (CISD), east of Houston, and Pflugerville Independent School District (ISD), northeast of Austin, have garnered such popularity over the years that Aramark Student Nutrition established a formal program inspired by them.

The Aramark Junior Culinary Star program facilitates Aramark chefs and foodservice directors at other client school accounts across the US to partake in similar student recipe contests. Here’s a glimpse into this year’s contests:

Fresh and Healthy at Goose Creek

Fourth and fifth-grade students from Goose Creek CISD wrapped up this year’s recipe contest with winners presenting their dishes at the school board meeting on Monday, February 5.

Fifteen students submitted winning recipes featuring Texas farm-fresh produce. One winner was chosen from each campus with an entry, selected by Chef Franchesca Bland and the Aramark Student Nutrition management team onsite.

Winners and their parents were notified, and student chefs were recognized by their principals during morning announcements. Each winner received a personalized chef jacket, had a photo opportunity with Chef Franchesca, and took home an aeroponic garden to cultivate their own vegetables and herbs. All recipes and photos were included in this year’s Franchesca’s Friends recipe book to commemorate the event.

“This contest reinforces the message that food can be both delicious and healthy,” said Roshelle Stevenson, Assistant Food Service Director at Goose Creek CISD, Aramark Student Nutrition. “It allows us to extend our mission of ‘Developing the Whole Child’ by challenging students to apply what they learn about nutrition.”

Firing Up the Future Chefs of Pflugerville

This year, forty-two middle and elementary students submitted recipes and photos for Pflugerville ISD’s Chef Stephanie’s Junior Chef Contest, named after Aramark Student Nutrition Chef Stephanie Goodson.

“We initiated this recipe contest a decade ago as a means to showcase our community engagement and foster culinary innovation among young chefs,” explained William Holle, Resident District Manager at Pflugerville ISD, Aramark Student Nutrition. “It also aligns with our partnership with the district’s CTE Culinary Arts program.”

The first winner of Chef Stephanie’s Junior Chef Contest, Caroline Coleman, went on to win on the TV culinary competition, “Chopped Junior.”

“The Junior Chef contest is an incredible platform for future chefs in Pflugerville,” remarked Coleman, who later attended classes at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, NY, for which Holle wrote her a letter of recommendation.

One winner was selected from each of the 12 participating schools by Chef Stephanie and the Aramark Student Nutrition team, and four finalists were chosen. In late February, these dishes will be judged by district, city, and community members, and the Junior Chefs’ names will be announced. Their recipes will also be compiled into a cookbook.

The grand prize winner will be honored at the school district’s spring board meeting, and their dish will be featured at the dinner that follows.

“The Junior Chef competition has become a highly anticipated event in Pflugerville each year,” noted Pflugerville ISD board member Vernagene Mott. “It’s always exciting to discover talented young chefs and their culinary creations.”

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