Young Chefs Test Their Skills in Iron Chef Competition 

Vermont’s culinary competition for middle and high school students is scheduled for this weekend at the Champlain Valley Expo Center

Jr Iron Chef contestants 2017 On Saturday, March 17, 68 teams of young chefs from across Vermont will compete in Jr Iron Chef VT  a timed cooking competition at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction, VT. This year, 300 middle and high school students are participating, the largest number since the competition was founded in 2008. 

As one of the first youth culinary competitions in the country, Jr Iron Chef VT has challenged and inspired more than 3,000 Vermont students to learn about and source local ingredients, develop recipes that inspire school meal programs, and cook whole, local foods from scratch.  Jr Iron Chef VT is a program of Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day), a partnership project of NOFA-VT and Shelburne Farms

Teams have just 90 minutes on-site to prepare their kid-tested, seasonal fare. Jr Iron Chef VT winning teams will receive generous prize packages, and will have the opportunity to prepare their recipes for legislators at the Vermont Statehouse on April 12th, 2018.

Aside from engaging and exciting young epicureans, Jr Iron Chef VT  also builds workforce development. 

“This contest is a great way to get kids excited about working with food,” says John Mandeville, one of the guest judges for this year's competition, and the co-chair of the Education and Workforce Development Working Group. “We need young people to understand the importance of a strong local food economy, and Jr Iron Chef VT teaches that with hands-on, participatory experiences.”

Part of the Farm to Plate network, the Education and Workforce Development Working Group focuses on strategies and the development of resources to improve and enhance programs that lead to careers in the food system. For those who move into other industries, Jr Iron Chef engages students with the confidence, self-management skills, and teamwork needed for the workforce at large.

The judge’s panel includes 20 community role models who have helped to shape our current workforce, including farmers, teachers, chefs, students, food writers, legislators, and other stakeholders in the Farm to School movement:

  • Mark Bove, President & Head Chef, Bove's
  • Cara Chigazola-Tobin, Chef-Owner, Honey Road
  • Tucker Dimasi, Jr Iron Chef VT Alumnus & Chef, Citizen Cider
  • TJ Donovan, Vermont Attorney General
  • Silas Doyle-Burr, Last Resort Farm
  • Coco Eyre, Student & Chopped Junior Chef
  • Dylan Giambatista, Vermont State Representative
  • Amy Gifford, Former Jr Iron Chef VT Coordinator & Co-owner, Richmond Community Kitchen 
  • Collin Hale, Sous Chef, Doc Ponds & Professional Skateboarder
  • Penrose Jackson, Director of Community Health Improvement at University of Vermont Medical Center
  • Sarah Kleinman, Director of 4-H/Youth Programs, University of Vermont Extension
  • Sherry Lussier, Director, Green Mountain Technology and Career Center 
  • John Mandeville, Executive Director, Lamoille Economic Development Corporation
  • Brock Miller,  Food Service Director, Cabot School
  • Michael Nedell, COO & Co-founder, Localvore
  • Tosca Smith, The Abbey Group,Newport City Elementary School 
  • Candace Taylor, Founder, Conscious Homestead & Conscious Kitchen
  • Anne Tisbert, Valley Dream Farm
  • Robin Turnau, President & CEO, Vermont Public Radio
  • Simone Washington, Social Mission Strategy & Policy Manager, Ben & Jerry's Homemade

The 11th annual Jr Iron Chef VT takes place Saturday, March 17 from 9:00am to 4:00 pm at the Champlain Valley Expo Center in Essex Junction, VT. The entry fee is $3 for an individual and $5 for a family (up to four people). Award ceremonies for the two heats are at 12:00pm and 3:00 pm. Jr Iron Chef VT is made possible by many business, agencies, and Individuals. For more information and a list of our sponsors, please visit www.jrironchefvt.org.

Jr Iron Chef contestants 2017 Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) is a statewide Farm to School program that raises awareness about healthy food, good nutrition, and the role of Vermont farms and farmers in rebuilding healthy food systems. VT FEED offers professional development services and resources to teachers and school food service, provides technical assistance to farmers and school professionals, and connects youth with agriculture and healthy food through such events as Junior Iron Chef Vermont, established in 2008 as one of the first youth culinary competitions to focus on local food and school meals. VT FEED also published the first-ever school cookbook to incorporate new USDA nutrition guidelines in recipes created by and for school chefs, featuring local, seasonal ingredients. Called “groundbreaking” by Ann Cooper, a powerful voice for school food reform, New School Cuisine is helping transform the way we feed children across the country. VT FEED’s work has been featured in EatingWell, Associated Press, and The Boston Globe. Cultivating links between classrooms, cafeterias, communities, and local farms, VT FEED is a partnership project of Shelburne Farms and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.