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 Local Students Shine at Regional Culinary Competition

Students showed off their food knowledge while tempting taste buds Tuesday at the first countywide high school culinary competition.

The CTE Master Chefs Culinary Competition at the Del Mar Fairgrounds was organized by the San Diego County Office of Education Career Technical Education / Regional Occupational Programs (CTE-ROP) unit.

“This is a great opportunity for students to put into practice the career-ready skills that they're learning in class,” said Susie Johnson, a coordinator with the unit. “They’re getting real-world experience in the trade that they’re studying.”

Twelve teams of as many as five teens participated in the cook-off with the team from Fallbrook High School taking the top prize. Their dish included pan-roasted duck in a sweet and fiery Cajun cream sauce along with mashed potatoes with brie and crab, and Brussels sprout leaves with caramelized onions and maple bacon.

“We wanted to do something different,” said Gabriel Contreras, a senior on the winning team.

The team practiced making the dish five times leading up to the competition but was still nervous when it came time to cook, Contreras said.

“For us to come out on top was an amazing feeling,” he said.

Their prizes were free meal passes for Panera Bread, chef aprons embroidered with the competition logo, and a team trophy. They will also have their dish featured in the U-T San Diego Recipe of the Week column.

Students had one hour and two butane burners to create a single, five-component entrée that needed to include a protein, starch, vegetable, sauce, and garnish.

Other dishes included braised pork with clams, seared white sea bass, buffalo wings with ranch dressing, and coconut shrimp with pineapple-honey sauce.

Second place went to San Dieguito Academy and third to Scripps Ranch High School.

The other participating schools were Mission Hills High School, Vista High School, Ramona High School, Torrey Pines High School, Granite Hills High School, Santana High School, Orange Glen High School, Escondido High School, and Southwest High School.

Having culinary programs and competitions such as this provides a fun way for students to learn and connect with school, Contreras said.

“It’s not something that that you have to do; it’s something that you want to do,” he said. “We have a passion for it.”

Organizers plan to make the competition an annual event.