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

With COVID-19 outbreak and resulting school closures, we chose to streamline the Sodexo National Future Chefs Challenge 10th anniversary competition to safeguard the health of the students and communities we serve.  Since we were able to safely and successfully hold 66 events, our winner was chosen from those submissions.

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 2020 National Future Chefs Champion

Congratulations Future Chef Champion Lexie Jauregui from Kennewick SD, Washington


Lexie Jauregui from Kennewick School District in Kennewick, Washington wins the 2020 Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge with her “Nacho School Lunch” recipe that wowed the distinguished local, regional and national judges.  
This year’s theme, “Your Favorite Lunch Meal – Reimagined”, proved to be a huge success, as many students submitted creative and healthy takes on their favorite entrees.  Lexie’s creation took home the win though. When asked to describe her recipe of Nacho School Lunch, Lexie said, "It was a family recipe that I thought would taste really good. It had sour cream drizzle, sweet potato chips, a plant-based protein, avocado because I love to chop up stuff and black beans, because they are super yummy and good for you."

While the current health and safety issues facing our world today did affect the Future Chefs Challenge, Sodexo Schools still produced 66 local winners that were then narrowed to the top five, of which Lexie was one.  We are thrilled with all recipe submissions this year, and we are proud to have Lexie representing us as our National Champion with her wonderful Favorite Lunch Meal – Reimagined!


Lexie Jauregui cooking


Congratulations to our Regional Winners

Congratulations to our Regional Winners


The students below took home terrific prizes and the high honor of being named our 2020 Future Chefs Regional Winners:

Lexie Jauregui
Kennewick School District in Kennewick, Washington
“Nacho School Lunch”

Jaxston Lovett
Cottonwood- Oak Creek School District in Cottonwood, Arizona
“Peanut Butter and Fruit Tacos”

Callie Walkuski
Naugatuck Public Schools in Naugatuck, Connecticut
“Meatball Dipper”

Michaela Brown
Richland Two School District in Columbia, South Carolina
“Rainbow Veggie Grilled Cheese”

Blake Matthews
Harrah Public Schools in Harrah, Oklahoma

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