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Hawks Beefy Chips and Dip Land Jr. Chef Team in Final 4

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By Allison Shepherd

The Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef program is a statewide high school cooking competition that offers youth the opportunity to learn valuable skills in recipe development, food preparation, marketing, public presentation, organization, teamwork and community involvement.

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“The program is designed to stimulate the interest of students who may be interested in the culinary field,” said Stephanie Utley, LaRue County Schools’ Director of Food Service.

Coordinated by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, each team must have between two and five members. Junior Chef recipes must contain at least five local ingredients, meet National School Lunch Program guidelines, and must be relatively easy for school food service staff to replicate.

Recipes are judged by taste, appearance, creativity, best and most use of local ingredients and appropriateness for school food service systems.

During the competition, teams will have 1 1/2 hours to cook and a half-hour to clean up. They may not bring any prepared foods to the competition and must perform all food preparation at the event. Coaches or supervisors may not help cook at the competition. However, these adults may provide hands-off guidance and advice.

The LaRue County Junior Chef Team advanced to the State competition with a win at the regional level held earlier this year at Taylor County School.

The three LaRue County students, Freshman Lorelai Sherrard,Sophomore Tori Perry, and Senior Amy Hammers, traveled to Louisville, KY this past week, to compete in the first round of the Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef State Finals held at the Kentucky State Fair.

On opening day of the Fair, LaRue County competed in the first round taking on Pikeville High School, with their cottage pie dish. For Senior Amy Hammers, this was the first time ever to the Kentucky State Fair, and she and her team mates couldn’t have handled it better.

As they took the main cooking stage, the girls went right to work. Their coach, Sheila Skaggs, along with LaRue County Schools’ Director of Food Service, Stephanie Utley sat with LaRue County Schools Superintendent David Raleigh, giving support from the front row seats at the event. Skaggs commented, “They’ve got this. They are ready”.

With an hour and a half to do the food preparation, the cooking, and the presentation of their dish for judging, the dynamic trio moved with confidence, and didn’t seem phased by the Chef circling them and asking questions, the audience looking on, or the general noise of State Fair goers.

At the conclusion of the round, a special presentation was made in memory of Chef Wally Bremer, and Tori Perry from LaRue was chosen as an ‘All-Star’ and presented a commemorative spoon denoting the recognition.

Even though all those watching and supporting from the audience were nervous and anxious for the team, it was all smiles, when the final announcement that LaRue County Junior Chef Team won Round 1 to advance to the next round on Friday.

Before the girls began looking to Round 2, they had an opportunity to tour Sullivan University’s Culinary School Thursday afternoon. “The tour was amazing. The girls loved it. They got to see all areas of the culinary department, from the international cuisine, all the way to the baking department”, said their coach Sheila Skaggs.

Not only are the girls working toward winning the State title, but the high school chefs are competing for up to $16,000 in financial aid awarded by Sullivan University at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture event.

The LaRue County Junior Chefs competed again on Friday, August 16 in Round 2, and again were announced as the winners over Raceland- Worthington, advancing the Hawks to the final four where they will compete against Harlan or Bath County on Thursday, August 22 at noon.

Skaggs added, “I’m super proud of the girls. They have done an amazing job.”

LaRue County Schools Superintendent David Raleigh stated, “It is always exciting to see young people succeed at what they have a passion for. I am extremely proud of these young ladies for working hard and representing LCHS with excellence. I am also very appreciative of Sheila Skaggs for working and mentoring them and helping them become a team.“

The final competition will take place on Friday, and the winner will advance to Southeast Regionals.