Sammy Jijon-Bacilio

Sammy Jijon-Bacilio, a senior at A.L. Brown High School, is raising money to compete in the National SkillsUSA Conference in Kentucky.

A passion for culinary arts, natural talent and opportunity are aligning for Kannapolis high school senior Sammy Jijon-Bacilio.

He is representing North Carolina at the National SkillsUSA Conference from June 25 to June 29 in Louisville, Ky. But before he faces off against 49 other students from around the country, he has to raise the funds to attend.

He has just a few days to raise another $1,000 to cover the cost of the competition registration, airfare, hotel and meals. He started a GoFundMe page to make fundraising easier. The page will be open until Wednesday, May 16.

Jijon won the culinary arts competition at the SkillsUSA state conference in April, which qualified him for the national competition. Winning the national competition means he could receive a college scholarship.

At the national competition, he’ll cook from a pre-set, four-course menu in an all-day competition that will include hot and cold food preparation and presentation. Judges will be looking at organization, knife skills, cooking techniques, creative presentation and sanitation food safety techniques as well as quality and flavor.

“Sammy is an incredible young talent,” Chef Mark Allison, Dole Food Director of Culinary Nutrition, said; he has mentored Jijon over the last year and is helping him prepare for the national competition. “He has a mastery of the kitchen and personal maturity that will take him far in the culinary world.”

Jijon’s culinary interests developed young.

“I started cooking with my mom helping her make dinner,” he said. “I remember making homemade tortillas and always burning myself. Now cooking is a way to express myself. It is really something that I take very seriously, especially when I’m competing. I am creating something that I can be proud of.”

Jijon is already a member of the American Culinary Federation as a junior culinarian and started working at Carowinds in March as a culinary lead. He’s grabbed local headlines for his culinary talents after leading A.L. Brown’s team to two Cabarrus Chef Challenge titles, one this month and the first in December 2017.

People in Kannapolis might have seen him at the Jiggy with the Piggy festival volunteering with the N.C. Research Campus. He made and gave away more than 200 fruit smoothie samples. He also demonstrated on the festival main stage how to make mushroom tacos and jicama slaw.

“I plan to go into culinary nutrition,” Jijon said. “I think that’s the future of our industry. I want to help people learn how to make good, fresh food that is full of flavor.”

He hopes with just a little more support, he’ll be able to take another step toward achieving his culinary goals.

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