America’s Best High School Chef Competition

The culinary competition began with a promising start, with over 15 competitors vying for the top four positions to cook a dish in the finals on the same day. The first round was a fierce and tricky knife skills and salad round, judged by alumni and instructors.

The finalists were all New York natives, with two from Food and Finance High School in New York City, Kayla Atkins and Tiffany Greene, eventual winner Mia Avila from the School of Hospitality Management, and Jasmine Guzman from Truman High School. This mystery basket competition brought out some of the boldest and most robust ideas seen in a competition of this caliber. While anyone could put together something simple and have it taste good, it takes courage and heart to truly go out of the box and make something unique, as shown by all of these finalists on the day of the competition.

Both Tiffany Greene and Kayla Atkins attempted to make a chicken roulade, which involves stuffing the chicken and wrapping it in its own skin, a process that must be fabricated off the chicken in one swift move. Keep in mind that this was an hour-long mystery basket competition, so they had to create their dish idea and execute it within the given time frame. While Kayla and Tiffany struggled to make the roulade work in their favor, it was incredible to watch. Jasmine and Mia also served fantastic dishes that challenged their own abilities, but Mia’s well-executed chicken braise with a mélange of vegetables and chicken breast ultimately won the competition.

The pastry competition was much different, with eight competitors required to compose a dish within their timeframe. It was split into two groups of four for the pastry students. This was a fierce competition, as these desserts looked simply fantastic. We saw a wide range of approaches from these students, from sorbets and ice creams with tuiles to cakes and tarts. These students were on a different level than the competition had seen in years past. The competition was judged by head judge Dean Costantino, who recently became the first Certified Executive Pastry Chef with a Doctorate, along with some alumni and current student pastry chef Vanessa Ruiz.

The winner of the competition, Nylah White, created a warm composed dessert featuring a warm apple spice cake, almond streusel, cranberry compote, dark chocolate fudge sauce, and salted caramel ice cream with an apple-shaped honey tuile. Nylah, from Food and Finance High School, shared her inspirations with me after the results were announced. Her inspiration came from Chef Donnagan and Chef Kat, who are both alumni of the CINY program and instructors at Food and Finance High School. She recalled feeling cool and confident going into the competition, and her goal now is to compete in the Colavita competition. After graduation and gaining some experience, she plans to open an American-style bakery. Nylah had some parting advice for all competing students: never forget to always pace yourself.