For more than a decade, Sodexo’s National Future Chefs Challenge has encouraged thousands of elementary students across North America to learn more about nutrition, healthy food choices, cooking techniques and presentation and math skills by participating in a good-natured cooking competition.

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. Sodexo Schools has spent the last decade helping students practice their culinary skills through the Future Chefs Challenge.

Hundreds of students are encouraged to submit recipes, based on a given theme each year, at the district level. Recipes are judged each year on taste, healthiness, kid friendliness, originality, ease of preparation, plate presentation and student chef presentations to the judges. The winner at each district then moves on to a regional round with others across the nation.  One winner is chosen at the end of the contest and named the National Champion.

Preparations for the Challenge start in September, recipe submissions are made in early winter and the local challenges are held throughout the month of March.  A National Winner is then announced, typically, in May.  The winning recipe, along with three other student-created recipes from this contest, are added to the school menus in our promotional series the following school year.  What a great way to showcase our students’ creativity, skills and initiative.

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

Key Milestones

Graphic: Key Milestones: 1 - 240 district kickoff  2 - 40 regional winners  3 - 5 national finalists  4 - final voting starts  5 - final winner announced

The 2023 National Future Chefs Champion

Ibraheem Ali, a 2nd grader from Woodhaven-Brownstone School District in Michigan, is our 2023 Future Chefs Champion!


Ibraheem's winning dish, Fruit Chana Chaat, was full of delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables and made for a colorful presentation that impressed our Sodexo chef judges and public voters.


Congrats, Ibraheem!

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