Imagine you’re cooking vegetable fried rice and the only utensils you can use are chopsticks.
That’s the circumstances Charlotte Latin School’s cooking team had to bear during the inaugural CTK Competition on Nov. 10.
Teams of middle schoolers from four Charlotte private schools – Latin, Providence Day School, Charlotte Christian School and Trinity Episcopal School – competed in three “Cutthroat Kitchen”-styled rounds to see who could serve the best dishes to win money for their school’s selected charity.
Students spent the last month training with their school’s Flik Independent School Dining executive chef to learn various cooking and cutting techniques, as well as menu preparation and production.
“The idea was to get a teacher to be their coach and the chef and learn. It’s a camaraderie and some competition; it’s a lot about techniques and how this work. It’s just one more way for these kids to learn,” Charlotte Latin’s Associate Headmaster Fletcher Gregory said.
Celebrity Chef Jet Tila served as the event’s emcee and revealed the sabotages, which include things that affected their cooking, their food and caused time constraints. Teams earned the ability to sabotage other teams through answering trivia questions.
“It’s a great learning experience for the kids,” Flik President Ray Mulligan said. “They get to do some critical thinking about cooking, they get to learn something new and they get to have fun.”
Flik Independent School Dining – that serves all four schools – was inspired to create this competition to provide students hands-on culinary education.
Flik’s parent company Compass Group contracts celebrity chefs and allows Flik to use their notoriety and skills how they see fit, according to Mulligan.
“What has happened with Jet (Tila) is that he loves dealing with kids. He’s just a natural,” he said.
Tila has conducted demonstrations at various schools, including Charlotte Christian, in which he shares healthy eating and cooking tips. Mulligan believes Tila’s spirit and personality is what makes the event fun and entertaining.
“These are skill-builders for the rest of their lives,” Tila said.
Tila and Flik also see the competition as a way to give back to the community.
“At the end of the day, it’s really about kids learning how to cook; their connection to food; and bringing their food together with their family,” Tila said. “If though it’s not (part) of a competition show, we’ve also snuck in health, wellness and cooking. That’s what it’s about. All their family members (were there). It’s all about bringing everybody to the table as much as possible in this day in age.”
Many of the school communities attended the event, interacted with Tila and encouraged participants as if they were at a sporting event.
“Part of our mission is to continue to educate the whole child and give them skills for a lifetime, so we feel this is great way to introduce middle school students to healthy eating, different ways to make a variety of foods,” said Charlotte Christian Head of School Barry Giller.
Giller felt the competition was a great opportunity for students to learn from professionals at a “very high level.” He hopes students learn that cooking can be fun and it’s an important life skill.
“We’ve enjoyed the healthy competition between the other schools. We play them all in athletics, but this is a different venue to get together and have some fun together,” Giller said.
Charlotte Latin’s team, which consisted of Chef Scott Reid, Jack Dannemann, Jessica Clover, Caroline VanNort, Parker Hanley and Hannah Hollingsworth, arguably dealt with the most sabotages, but ultimately won the competition, earning $1,200 for the Patriot Military Family Foundation. Donations were collected from the audience and Flik matched those donations.
Providence Day was the runner-up and competed for the Humane Society of Charlotte.
“I love to cook and this was a great opportunity for to try and experience more,” said Providence Day sixth-grader Sydney McCorkle.
She said the best part of the program was learning different cutting styles and how to cook different dishes.
Trinity eighth-grader Cameron Cash is a big fan of Cutthroat Kitchen and couldn’t pass up an opportunity to meet Tila.
“I learned you have to present it the way you want it presented to you,” he said.
Mulligan said the cooking competition is just the beginning for student-involved programming and that Flik has already started brainstorming more future options.
Find more information at www.FlikISD.com.