KANNAPOLIS, NC (WBTV) - What is a "fresh" meal for the New Year? The 8 A.L. Brown High School students who just won the 5th Annual Cabarrus Chef Challenge suggests grilled zucchini and pepper salad with feta cheese, grilled chicken dressed in a citrus marinade on top of a grilled corn salad with onions, peppers and lime and a side of mashed cauliflower.
The second place team, Cox Mill High School, recommends cauliflower casserole, quinoa salad with cucumber, corn, apples, citrus and chicken alongside baked, stuffed eggplant parmesan with spaghetti and baked apples with cinnamon oats and sliced fruits.
"These are the types of dishes you see at a fine dining restaurant," said Judge Daniel Squirewell, Cabarrus Health Alliance Environmental Health Specialist. "You thought about health and nutrition, and without salt, butter, and sugar, it's amazing what you did."
Each team had 10 minutes to plan their menus and an hour to prepare and plate them before presenting them to the panel of chefs and community members who served as judges. They used only the food items and fresh fruits and vegetables donated by Earth Fare in Concord and Gordon Foods in Kannapolis.
"I love the fact that the students learned about food and nutrition. I love that this is a community event and gives them an opportunity to interact with each other," said Megan Lambert, a judge and senior instructor at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte.
As the winning team, A.L. Brown received a "travelling coin" from the Concord Police Department. Chief Gary Gacek, who served as a judge, explained that the coin is the official coin of the Concord Police department, and the winning team holds onto it until the next challenge, which will be in April 2018.
AL Brown also won $500 for their culinary program from Castle & Cooke North Carolina, the business development lead for the NC Research Campus. CCNC is also donating $250 to Cox Mill High School's culinary program and $100 each to Northwest Cabarrus and Hickory Ridge high schools, the other schools that competed in the first two rounds of the competition.
All the students who participated were given a Nutrition Handbook courtesy of the Dole Nutrition Institute, located on the NC Research Campus.
All three nights of the competition were held at restaurant Forty Six in downtown Kannapolis.
"The atmosphere at Forty Six allowed the kids to think like a chef and experience a professional kitchen," commented event organizer Meghan Charpentier with Cabarrus Health Alliance. "There's more space for the parents and teachers to be here and be supportive. The staff at Forty Six was tremendous and helped make this event so successful."
Forty Six Executive Chef and Judge John Blumreich added in closing the event that he was so pleased to see the "participation and teamwork" of each student. "This is the process that turns you into leaders and makes you competent in what you are doing and gives you all a step up," he said.
Judges also included Mark Spitzer, Vice President of Operations for Castle & Cooke North Carolina and mission support for the NC Research Campus, and Robert Walter, CEC, CCA, AAC, culinary specialist with Gordon Foods.