Last weekend, I had the pleasure of checking out the High School Culinary Challenge at NAIT!
The High School Culinary Challenge (HSCC), presented by Edmonton Chefs, is an annual competition that attracts young, budding chefs to the culinary arts. It gives students opportunities to learn new skills, work as a team, compete with other schools, and apply for scholarships to attend NAIT’s Culinary Arts program.
According to HSCC, many of Canada’s top chefs start at Edmonton’s High School Culinary Challenge! In addition to the scholarships, participants also go on to compete in international culinary competitions, and build successful careers in the food industry.
This year, 15 teams of 45 students from 15 high schools in the Edmonton Metro Region competed for culinary gold by preparing a three-course meal. The students are judged by some of Edmonton’s best chefs, on criteria including preparation, timing, sanitation, presentation, and taste!
I got to tour the kitchens with my friend Sharman (The Pork Girl) and watch these talented students put together a soup (Minestrone), main dish featuring Alberta pork, and their take on a lemon tart.
I’m already significantly impressed on a regular basis with what the NAIT Culinary students can do at Ernest’s, NAIT’s student restaurant, so you can imagine how amazing it was to see these high school students almost effortlessly deal with the timed pressure of a culinary competition.
It’s easy to see how the young competitors in the HSCC could go on to become top chefs!
The winning High School Culinary Challenge teams are announced at the annual Awards Dinner in March. The Awards Dinner is actually one of the HSCC’s biggest fundraisers, and is open to the public!
Individual tickets are just $35 per person! That includes a three-course dinner AND you get to see the students’ reactions when they find out they’ve won!
This is the 11th High School Culinary Challenge, which means young chefs in and around our city have had this really cool opportunity for 11 years. I remember taking Food Studies in high school and it was certainly nothing like this! Even if students don’t win, all participants are still eligible to apply for up to three full scholarships to NAIT’s Culinary program, which is also a wicked opportunity.
It’s programs like these and others that the Edmonton Chefs group puts on, that can really foster youth’s interest and passion in the culinary arts, and, as HSCC co-chair and local Chef Paul Shufelt puts it:
“Keeps the momentum of our local food community charging forward.”
If you ever get a chance to attend a High School Culinary Challenge event, I hope you do! Supporting students, and our future culinary leaders, is a pretty awesome (and tasty) thing to do.