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Future Chefs to Put Culinary Skills on Display March 11

Twenty West Aurora elementary school students will be fired up to show off their cooking skills and creativity on March 11 as part of the district’s third annual Future Chefs competition.

The competition will be hosted by the District 129 food service provider, Sodexo. The fourth and fifth-grade chefs were chosen for the event based on recipes they submitted at each of the West Aurora’s 10 elementary schools. The students will use their skills to come up with a winning dish that fits into this year’s theme, healthy comfort food.

“Cooking in the past 10 years or so has blown up in popularity,” Tyson Simmons, Sodexo General Manager for K-12 School Services, said. “We always wanted to get kids in the schools involved. We wanted to see what they come up with.”

Students shared their healthy meal ideas in recipe boxes at their schools, and the process was even incorporated into homework in a few classrooms, according to Simmons.  A total of 36 recipes were considered to determine which students would cook for judges with the Top Future Chef title on the line.

“They definitely get to express their culinary focus,” Simmons offered, adding the event is a nice showcase of how families bond over food.

Working within the theme, the student dishes will be assessed in five categories: Health-Conscious Foods; Simple, Kid-Friendly Preparation; Best Table Demonstration; Fun kid Foods; and Judge’s Choice. The judging panel consists of chefs, a district representative and West High culinary students.

Students have 90 minutes from the time they enter the kitchen until the judges begin sampling their creations. The event is open to members of the public, who can also watch the action and get a taste of what the students cook up. In addition, attendees can grab a bite from the waffle station while the judges do their work.

The district’s winner advances to the regional finals to compete against other students from Sodexo schools for a shot at becoming a national finalist. Two years ago, Ella Henry from Fearn Elementary finished in the top five nationally, winning “a bunch of cool stuff” that included cooking tutorials, Simmons said.

Across the country, Sodexo’s Future Chefs Challenge will involve 1,000 schools in 29 states. You can learn more about Future Chefs and see last year’s top national recipe at:

Event Details:

When: March 11, 8 a.m. to Noon

Where: West Aurora High School, Upper Café

What: 20 fourth and fifth-grade students from West Aurora School District elementary schools will create healthy comfort food dishes for judges and members of the public to try. Students enter the kitchen at 9 a.m. and judging begins at 10:30. Awards will be handed out at 11:30 a.m.

If you’d like to attend, please contact Tyson Simmons by emailing