Culinary Institute of the South at TCL hosts culinary competition for high school students

Published on February 6, 2024

Fourteen students from high schools across the state participated in a culinary competition held at the Culinary Institute of the South at Technical College of the Lowcountry on Feb. 2.

Sponsored by the nonprofit organization Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), the event – which featured both a culinary and baking competition – drew students from Aiken High School, in Aiken, F.E. Dubose Career Center, in Manning, Lake Marion High School & Technology Center, in Santee, St. Johns High School, on Johns Island, and Wando High School, in Mount Pleasant.

As Melanie Williams board chair for the South Carolina chapter of the FCCLA explained, all of the event’s participants had undergone the organization’s career and technology education program – specifically in the fields of culinary and family and consumer science.

“These students have been working really hard, so they’ve come here to showcase their skills and demonstrate all the things they have learned in the program,” she said.

The Culinary Institute of the South at TCL often partners with local, regional and even national organizations for such competitions. In fact, another competition coming up this spring has the culinary institute working with Vermont-based King Arthur Baking Company. Like the FCCLA, the Tastes Like Home Contest – which has a recipe contest underway – will culminate in an in-person competition held in April at the culinary institute.

Competitions like the FCCLA’s or Tastes Like Home can be high pressure situations for young people but they can also provide a great learning experience, said TCL’s Culinary Instructor and Procurement Manager Chef Sam Carpenter.

“They learn how to work under pressure, handle product and safely serve food,” he said, adding that students also practice their time management skills and how to plate and present food. “All of the fun aspects that we utilize in the industry.”

What’s more, scholarships and other opportunities are often on the line. The FCCLA competition, for example, will feature another round of competition held in Charleston at which point two students will be awarded scholarships and go on to the organization’s national competition in Seattle, Washington. Winners of the Tastes Like Home contest will receive either a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of the South or a trip to King Arthur Baking Company’s Bakery in Vermont.

In addition, organizers said the FCCLA competition was an educational win-win because TCL students got the opportunity to serve as judges alongside culinary faculty.

“I know how the students are feeling right now,” said TCL baking and pastry student Torie Murphy. “Chef Jackie can be very intimidating, and now I get to stand here and be intimidating,” she said with a smile.

Students like Murphy were given guidelines on what professional judges look for and how to judge a competition, something they’ll more than likely do at some point in their own careers.

“All of these dishes we’ve made before in our classes, so we know what they’re supposed to look like and how they’re supposed to come out,” Murphy said, quickly adding that she and her classmates were looking for cleanliness and sanitation while TCL instructors would be the ultimate judges of the dishes themselves.

In the meantime, the competition, she said, has given her a new perspective.

“I really got to see Chef Jackie’s point of view,” she said.