Students from seven middle schools in Elgin Area School District U-46 competed to be top chefs in the "Junior Chopped: A Middle School Cooking Competition" held Saturday at South Elgin High School.
The competition, which is a takeoff on the Food Network show "Chopped," consisted of four rounds. Students were given 20 minutes to prepare a dish which had to contain, but was not limited to, surprise ingredients presented at the start of each round.
No eliminations were made in round one, a sort of warm-up round, which featured appetizers. The following rounds featured a snack, a breakfast dish and lunch.
The majority of students were first-time contestants, but the Kenyon Woods Middle School team "Fire and Ice" sported a veteran trio of Emma Miller, 13, of Elgin, Laurel Karis, 14, of South Elgin and Madelyn Dux, 13, of Bartlett.
"I really think we are a lot more prepared this year and I think we're going to do great," Emma said.
The newcomers on the Larsen Middle School team "Larsen Chefs" shared a mix of nervousness, excitement and confidence, but all were proud of how their team was doing and the dishes they had presented halfway through the event.
One of the three judges, Travis Paquin, 16, of Elgin High School, is a chef at the school's student-run restaurant called "The Clumsy Chef Cafe."
"I'm very proud of these kids and I hope they really keep it up," he said. "Once you get in the high school level, you start running actual restaurants … It's really fun and you get that real-life experience."
First place went to Tefft Middle School, second place to Kenyon Woods Middle School and third to Abbot Middle School.