Country Chef Challenge brings out culinary delights and bright futures

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Some of the city's best young chefs went head-to-head in a cooking competition on Saturday with scholarship money on the line.

The juniors and seniors in the Olathe and Blue Valley School District's culinary programs created their own recipes from ingredients found at Olathe’s farmer's market. Teams pulled out all the stops, mixing it up with local ingredients and recipes designed to impress.

“We have a Steak au Poivre which has palm treats on tops,” James Fackrell, Olathe Northwest student, said.

“Its an Asian infused pan seared chicken breast topped with pickled veggies and seared watermelon,” Kaitlin Head, Blue Valley Northwest student, said.

“Right now we have the Cornish hens in the pan and they are searing up and I'm stirring the rice making risotto,” Hannah Winnett, Blue Valley Northwest student, said. “We've been in school two weeks and pushing the envelope already.

Teams prepare one plate for each of four judges. They only have an hour to do it. They are judged on presentation, taste, theme, creativity and adaptability.

“You are definitely looking at future chefs of America,” Dr. Mike Chrostowsli, culinary instructor, said.

Did we mention they are cooking on two Bunsen Burners?

“It’s difficult. It’s definitely harder than our lovely stoves in the kitchen back at school,” Winnett said.

“The wind cutting down the burner heat is the biggest challenge we have,” Fackrell said.

The challenges may be great, but these future chefs were undaunted as their aspirations were high.

“My goal is to get that phone call and say ‘Hey chef, I'm opening my restaurant, I want you to be the first customer in the door.’ I'm like, ‘Yeah...I'm there,’" Dr. Chrostowsli said.

But it starts here where the winners take home scholarship money. The hope is that the money will launch their dreams of cooking greatness. The winners received an $800 scholarship from Country Financial. Those winners were Derrick Gimson and Kaitlin Head, the only first year students in the competition, and they've only been in the program for two weeks!

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