Times might be tough in the restaurant business, but a nonstop parade of bright newcomers are still eager to work in it. Thirty-four of them showed off their skills early last month in Charlotte, NC, by participating in the Arts Institute's Best Teen Chef 2009 culinary competition.
The contestants, each a high school senior, prepared identical, and challenging, three-course menus: curly endive salad with bacon and poached egg; oyster stew; and catfish “with a creative garnish.”
Making these items sexy was a tall order, but the winners pulled it off. Taking first place was Sammy Jo Claussen (pictured at left) from Kansas City, who earned a full-tuition scholarship to study Culinary Arts at the International Culinary School at the Art Institutes International in Kansas City. She'll also spend a day as an intern at the Food Network Kitchens.
Runner-up honors went to Kaitlyn McKissick of Olathe, KS, who will use her half-tuition scholarship to study at the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Colorado. Third place finisher Oscar Melendez of Los Angeles received a quarter-tuition scholarship. He'll use it to study in his hometown at The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of California — Los Angeles.
In all, the Art Institutes awarded more than $200,000 in tuition scholarships at the event.