Tennessee 4-Hers showcase culinary skills in Chopped-style cooking challenge
Tennessee’s young stars in 4-H competed head-to-head in a cooking competition inspired by the hit Food Network show, Chopped, with an emphasis on how students can turn their love of agriculture and food into a successful career in culinary.
In a sizzling display of culinary skills and teamwork, youth from Tennessee’s 4-H program recently participated in a thrilling “Chopped Cooking Challenge,” a head-to-head battle inspired by the hit Food Network television show, created to inspire kids in ag programs to consider a future career in food.
This event, which was held at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Wilson County, not only participant’s cooking abilities to the test but also offered valuable career insights. Charles Denney took us behind the scenes to discover the delectable creations and the lessons these talented 4-Hers gleaned from the experience.
Chopping with a Purpose
Glistening blades and sharp creativity took center stage as these young 4-H participants delved into the “Chopped Cooking” competition. The fair’s theme revolved around corn, making it a mandatory ingredient for each team’s culinary masterpiece.
“We’re making Mexican street corn, with enchiladas and fruit dip,” Emily Burks, one of the young chefs, said enthusiastically. “Sounds pretty good? It is.”
Unity and Delicious Dishes
Three teams passionately competed, each crafting a Tex-Mex main dish accompanied by an array of mouthwatering sides, fresh vegetables, and produce. But for the students, this was a friendly competition as well as an exercise in unity and communication.
“Part of it, too, is we’re getting them on communication and teamwork,” said organizer Erin Ortiz. “So, how to really work with a team, and that they’re learning to also communicate with their team members since they only have 90 minutes to prepare an appetizer, a meal, and an entrée.”
From Local to National
The stakes are high for the winning team of this event, who will earn the chance to represent Tennessee at an upcoming National Chopped Cooking event at the Texas State Fair in 2024. However, the true reward was the valuable learning experience offered to all participants, especially those with aspirations of pursuing careers in the culinary arts.
“I started in food science; It was like my passion to cook,” explained Jaiden Graves, another participant already accomplished in the kitchen. “I worked in restaurants for about three years. So, started off early working in a restaurant—always had a dream to cook. It was just something I enjoy doing for fun.”
The young chefs also had the opportunity to receive cooking and career advice from Chef Julio Hernandez, Chef-Owner of Nashville’s award-winning Maiz De La Vida taco truck, who served as one of the judges. The 4-H leaders aimed to connect these budding food enthusiasts with potential mentors, helping them explore the path to becoming chefs.
A Taste of Success
After the chopping and baking frenzy, the moment of truth arrived as the judges sampled the delectable creations. Impressed by the young chef’s culinary talents, it was evident that introducing young minds to the world of food can lead to exciting opportunities.
The competition, inspired by the popular “Chopped Cooking” TV show, concluded with a victory for a team from Moore County. As the competition wrapped up, it was clear that these young culinary talents had not only showcased their skills but also taken a step closer to fulfilling their dreams of becoming future culinary maestros.