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Graphic: child chefs


Future Chefs

Over the past nine years, the National Future Chefs Challenge has encouraged over 15,000 elementary students throughout North America to learn more about nutrition, make healthy food choices, build basic math skills and develop cooking techniques by participating in a good-natured competition.

Important Update

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting school closures, we are streamlining the remainder of the Sodexo National Future Chefs Challenge 10th anniversary competition to safeguard the health of the students and communities we serve. While we will not be able to hold any more events, we look forward to selecting and celebrating a National Winner. Please see further details below.

The Future Chefs Challenge

It’s never too early to start teaching students how to make healthy food choices, master basic cooking skills and engage in a little friendly competition.

In year 10 of the Future Chefs Challenge, hundreds of school districts invited students ages 5 -12 to create and submit a recipe that allowed them to reimagine their favorite school lunch meal. Sodexo teams coached and supported these students along the way. Their recipes were judged on taste, healthiness, kid friendliness, originality, ease of preparation, plate presentation and student presentation to the chefs at the local level.

With the modified schedule, all events now have occurred, and the local finalists will be announced March 24. A panel of judges will then evaluate and score those finalists’ recipes to select a national winner and provide special prizes. The winning dish will earn a spot in next year’s school menu and four additional recipes will debut in our spring 2021 menu.

View All Past Winners
Graphic: children dressed as chefs with photo props

Modified Key Milestones

Local Competitions Held (February 25 – March 16, 2020)

Local competitions took place in elementary schools in about half of the nearly 250 districts that had planned to hold Future Chef events before the updated deadline of March 16.

Local Winners Announced (Tuesday, March 24, 2020)

A panel of judges will select local winners in the participating districts using the same criteria at each location: taste, originality, ease of preparation, healthy attributes, kid appeal, plate presentation, and the newest criteria—student chef presentation to judges.

National Winner Announced (Week of March 30, 2020)

A national team of judges, including chefs and vendor partners who have supported this event, will score all the recipes submitted and one student will be chosen as this year’s national winner. The winning dish will earn a spot in next year’s school menu and four additional recipes will debut in our spring 2021 menu.

Why Future Chefs

Future Chefs participants not only learn how to prepare healthy meals, they also get a healthy serving of confidence in themselves.  Combined, those two factors can have a profound effect on their physical and emotional wellbeing today and throughout their lives – which is critical considering the number of school-age kids struggling with obesity or being overweight.

According to the American Heart Association, about one in every three American kids and teens is overweight or obese,” says Stephen Dunmore, CEO North America, Schools, Sodexo. “This staggering statistic demonstrates why it is more important than ever to engage youth to become advocates for their own health.”

Public School Review states that “the elementary school years play a formative role in shaping a child’s self-esteem and confidence. Children with high self-esteem typically tackle new challenges more effectively, achieve more success in school, and generally exhibit fewer personal and behavioral issues.” 

We’re proud to sponsor this fun and innovative competition to help kids develop healthy habits to last a lifetime.

Graphic: child chefs holding their plates of food

What Children Learn

Future chefs learn basic kitchen skills that will serve them well into their adult lives, including the following from Mom’s Kitchen Handbook:

  1. How to use a knife
  2. How to wash and cut vegetables and fruit
  3. How to make a salad
  4. How to cook grains
  5. How to roast vegetables
  6. How to cook a piece of chicken, fish, or meat in a pan
  7. How to make one simple pasta
  8. How to cook eggs
  9. How to bake something sweet
  10. How to clean the kitchen

Winner’s Showcase

Check back regularly for the latest competition updates.

Graphic: 2019 Future Chef Winner (detailed description follows the image)

The 2019 National Future Chefs Champion

Addie Borgmann from Elkhorn, Nebraska wins the 2019 Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge with Mexican-inspired Skinny Mini Mexi Meatball Boats Recipe.

When asked to describe her recipe of Skinny Mini Mexi Meatball Boats, she said, “It’s like tacos disguised as a meatball! And who doesn’t love tacos and meatballs?” Borgmann then spoke to her inspiration for this concept by saying, “I love tacos, but I also love meatballs, so I combined them in this recipe!” 

Addie was one of five finalists, out of nearly 2,700 entries, selected to create videos of their recipes. The public was encouraged to view and vote for its favorite dish, resulting in over 54,000 votes cast during the week of public voting.

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