KANNAPOLIS—Serving a farmers market-fresh meal, A.L. Brown High School took the sixth Cabarrus Chef Challenge title, repeating their win from last December.

Semifinal rounds for the Chef Challenge, which takes place twice a year, ran Monday and Wednesday, with the two winners facing off in a final match at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, at restaurant Forty Six in downtown Kannapolis. Culinary teams from Hickory Ridge and Cox Mill High Schools competed in the earlier rounds.

In one hour, the team of six prepared and served a panel of five judges a play on surf and turf with grilled salmon topped with mango chipotle salsa, roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables. For dessert, the students prepared a banana and strawberry frozen yogurt topped with peanut butter and chocolate and a fresh fruit and pretzel garnish.

They were also recognized with a traveling coin from the Concord Police Department.

Serving up second place was Central Cabarrus High School, who served a farm-fresh variety of chicken and salmon flavored with cilantro, honey and lemon. They included a side of asparagus and whole wheat pasta salad along with a punch made of fresh fruit sweetened with honey.

The teams entered the final competition with no idea of the theme or the food and spices they would have available.

“There was a lot of great flavor work and some technical errors here and there,” Executive Chef John Blumreich with restaurant Forty Six, where the competition was held, said. “But overall I tip my hat to all of you for what you accomplished.”

All of the judges complimented the teams on their hard work and successful service, especially with the time constraints. Additional judges were:

  • Gary Gacek, chief of the Concord Police Department;
  • Mark Allison, chef and director of culinary nutrition for Dole Food Company;
  • Megan Lambert, chef and senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte; and
  • Dr. William Pilkington, CEO and executive director of Cabarrus Health Alliance.

“The communications and teamwork was, by far, the best we’ve seen of any competition,” competition organizer Meghan Charpentier, nutrition coordinator for event-sponsor Cabarrus Health Alliance, said. “These students possess confidence in the kitchen a lot of kids today don’t have. The support from their teachers and schools has been phenomenal. They’ve taken what they’ve learned and applied it successfully.”

Round one

By just one-and-a-half points, Central Cabarrus High School edged out Cox Mill High School to win the first round of the Cabarrus Chef Challenge competition, sponsored by Cabarrus Health Alliance.

Each team of 10 students had 10 minutes to plan their meals and an hour to prepare and plate before presenting their dishes to the judges.

Central Cabarrus served a chicken fajita on a pita with black beans and cilantro as well as guacamole with pretzel chips and a smoothie made with apples, oranges, bananas and spinach. Cox Mill served a peanut butter yogurt dip with freshly sliced apples, a hummus bean dip with pretzel chips, a grilled chick, hummus and arugula salad sandwich and a fresh citrus drink.

Judges Mark Allison, chef and director of Culinary Nutrition for Dole Food Company, Dr. William Pilkington, Cabarrus Health Alliance CEO and executive director, and John Blumreich, executive chef for restaurant Forty Six where the competition was held, all praised the students’ creativity, presentation and flavorful dishes.

Round two

A.L. Brown High School overcame a stiff challenge from Hickory Ridge High School Tuesday, May 1, to advance to the final round of the Cabarrus Chef Challenge.

“I’m impressed with all of the students,” John Blumreich, executive chef at Forty Six who also is a competition judge, said. “It takes a lot to put yourself on the line in front of a group of judges. I’m so proud of all of the students who are competing.”

Both teams were praised by a panel of six judges for their teamwork, excellent presentations, creativity and flavors. In the end, the Wonders, who holds the Chef Challenge title, won the round with a healthy summer meal of stir fried vegetables, a berry fresca drink and a deconstructed granola yogurt and berry compote parfait. Everything was prepared and plated in an hour using only the food and spices provided.

“It is amazing to see such talented students in our high schools,” event judge Chef Mark Allison, director of Culinary Nutrition for Dole Food Company, said. “Whether or not they chose a culinary career, they have bright futures ahead of them.”

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