Recipe Contest and Cook-off Competition Rules 

The goal of the Michigan Junior Chef Competition is to provide youth participants hands-on cooking experience and knowledge of healthy food choices. It is made up of two parts, a Recipe Contest and a Cook-off Competition. Recipes for the Recipe Contest must include fresh, local, and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) foods (federal commodity foods) and should be practical and easy for school food service operations to offer as part of their meal programs. Finalists from the Recipe Contest will be eligible to prepare their meals on-site at the Cook-off Competition at Michigan State University on May 9, 2013. Top recipes will be shared with schools throughout the state in a Michigan Junior Chef Cookbook.

I. Teams

  • Teams should consist of 3-4 students in grades 7-12 and 1-2 adults. Youth team members must be enrolled in Michigan schools and may be any combination of 7-12th graders.

  • Each team must have at least 1 adult coach to participate in team meetings/practice and to chaperone the team to the Cook-off Competition, if eligible. The coach can be a school food service director, teacher, other school employee, or parent/guardian.

  • Adult coaches are not allowed to cook with the students during the Cook-off Competition, but they may provide guidance in cooking techniques and food safety.

  • Teams must submit a  Team Application  and Recipe Entry Form  for the Recipe Contest by March 26th, 2013. Finalists will be announced by April 11th, 2013.

  • Finalists from the Recipe Contest will be eligible to participate in the Cook-off Competition at Michigan State University on May 9th, 2013. Teams must register  to participate in the cook-off by April 24th, 2013.

II. Recipe Contest

Students are encouraged to work with their school food service director to develop their recipes.


  • A  Team Application  and Recipe Entry Form  must be submitted to the Michigan Department of Education via email by March 26th, 2013.

  • Recipes must serve at least 4-8 people.

  • Teams are encouraged to use original or family recipes. If recipes are adapted from a known source (e.g., Betty Crocker), the source MUST be credited.

    • Generic citation: Author’s last name, Author’s first name. “Title of Recipe.” Recipe. Title of Book. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication. Page number(s).

    • Sample citation: Stuart, Neil. “Red Lentil and Carrot Soup.” Recipe. The Best of Gourmet 1996. New York: Conde-Nast Random House, 1996. 116-7.

  • Nuts, meat, poultry, and fish are NOT allowed due to allergy and food safety concerns. Desserts are also NOT allowed.

  • As long as an adult is present, teams may practice preparing their school lunch meal as often as possible. Teams must supply their own ingredients for practicing recipes prior to the Recipe Contest.

  • Dishes may contain ingredients other than the local Michigan and USDA foods (federal commodity foods) listed below. Students are encouraged to discuss ingredients with their food service director to ensure they are typical of school meal programs. Students may also ask their food service director for a list of USDA foods commonly used in their school’s meal programs.

  • Plan recipes based on the equipment available at the Cook-off Competition (see below for a complete list).

Recipes MUST:

  • Feature at least two of the following local, seasonal Michigan ingredients:

    • Asparagus

    • Beets

    • Carrots

    • Eggs

    • Frozen Blueberries

    • Frozen Strawberries

    • Garlic

    • Honey

    • Kale

    • Lettuce


    • Milk

    • Onions

    • Potatoes

    • Radishes

    • Salad mix/greens

    • Scallions/green onions

    • Spinach

    • Sweet potatoes

    • Swiss Chard

  • Feature at least two USDA foods (federal commodity foods), including but not limited to:

    • Canned beans (garbanzo, great northern, pinto, red, red kidney, refried)

    • Cheese (sliced american (reduced fat), shredded cheddar (low-fat), shredded mozzarella)

    • Flours (all-purpose, corn, wheat, masa, grits)

    • Fruit, canned (apple slices, applesauce, apricots, peaches, pears, pineapple)

    • Fruit, dried (cherries, raisins)

    • Fruit, frozen (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries)

    • Oil (soybean or vegetable)

    • Pasta (macaroni, rotini, spaghetti, whole grain)

    • Pineapple, canned tidbits

    • Potatoes

    • Raisins

    • Rice (brown, white, long grain, parboiled)

    • Rolled oats

    • Spaghetti sauce, meatless, canned

    • Sweet potatoes, frozen, mashed

    • Tomato paste, canned

    • Tomatoes, canned (diced or sauce)

    • Tortillas, whole grain

    • Yellow cornmeal

  • Follow the USDA Meal Pattern for grades 6-12. The FIVE required food items for a daily lunch are list below.  All must be present in the minimum amounts specified.

    • Fruits: 1/2 cup minimum

    • Vegetables: 3/4 cup minimum

    • Grains: 1 ounce equivalent minimum

    • Meat Alternate: 1 ounce equivalent minimum

    • Milk: 1 cup minimum (must be fat free unflavored or flavored or 1% unflavored)

  • Meet the USDA Nutrient Standards for grades 6-12 specified below.

    • Sodium: <1420 milligrams

    • Calories: 600-850

    • Saturated Fat: <10% of total calories

    • Trans Fat: 0 grams per serving

  • Be analyzed for nutrition information using Self’s Nutrition Data website. Visit and click on “Analyze Recipe” and then “Get Started.”  Teams will need to create an account to save recipes. Nutrition information must be calculated per meal and accompany Recipe Contest submissions. If multiple recipes are used per meal, calculate nutrition information for a single serving of each recipe and add them together to equal the nutrition information per meal. Teams that choose to use an alternative website for nutrition analysis must cite their source.  

    Note: Self’s Nutrition Data website is a free site with a limited database. If unable to locate exact ingredients for recipes, select the item most similar to your ingredient.

  • Include ONE Grocery Shopping List. This list must include ingredients for all components (entrée, side dish(es), milk, etc.) and must indicate the exact amount, unit of measure, and specific form of each ingredient desired (e.g., dried vs. fresh vs. frozen or low-fat vs. fat-free, etc.). Ingredients that fail to show up on the Grocery Shopping List will not be purchased for the Cook-off Competition. USDA’s Food Buying Guide Calculator for Child Nutrition Programs ( may be a useful resource in determining purchasing quantities for this list.


Recipes will be scored and judged based on the following criteria:

  • Nutritional quality—meal follows the USDA Meal Pattern for grades 6-12

  • Nutritional quality—meal meets the USDA Nutrient Standards for grades 6-12

  • Use of local, seasonal Michigan ingredients

  • School food service replicability—time and labor to prepare meal

  • School food service replicability—use of USDA foods (federal commodity foods)

Note: Only complete applications will be reviewed. In the event of a tie, additional judging criteria will be used and may include affordability, appearance/presentation, creativity, use of dark green and orange vegetables, use of whole grains, and use of appealing, student-friendly foods.

III. Cook-off Competition

Finalists from the Recipe Contest will be eligible to participate in the Junior Chef Cook-off Competition on May 9th, 2013 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. Teams must register to participate in the cook-off by April 24th, 2013.


  • Teams must use the same recipes from the Recipe Contest and incorporate any changes that were requested.

  • Ingredients for the cook-off will be provided based on the quantities listed in each team’s final recipe and grocery shopping list.

  • Teams are required to prepare and cook meals on-site. Nothing may be prepared in advance.

  • Teams must prepare, cook, and plate their meals in less than two hours.

  • Finalists from the Recipe Contest will be eligible for reimbursement of up to $50 for the purchase of ingredients to perfect their recipes prior to the Cook-off Competition. To receive reimbursement, adult chaperones must complete and sign a reimbursement form at the cook-off. Receipts are required.

  • Travel reimbursement for one vehicle to and from the competition will be provided for each team. To receive reimbursement, adult chaperones must bring a printout of directions including mileage (e.g., Google Maps, Map Quest, etc.) from the team’s starting point to MSU and complete and sign a reimbursement form at the cook-off.

  • Teams are required to submit a Marketing Flyer with their meal.  Flyers must be student designed and inlcude the following:

    • Target audience analysis

      • Describe the audience for this meal.

      • Provide a short description of the meal that would encourage the audience to choose it.

      • What information may be included on a menu to describe this meal?

    • Product

      • What is the name of the meal?

      • How do you plan to present it so that it appeals to your target audience? Is anything special required?

      • Identify the ingredients and their nutrient value. What benefits do these nutrients provide?

      • Justify why you believe the target audience will choose this meal and why you think it’s good for them.

    • Price

      • Does this meal fit within the typical cost allowance for a meal in a school food service program? Show the math!

    • Place

      • Where is the best place to promote your meal? In the cafeteria, hallways, monthly school menu, morning announcements, school newsletter, or other venues?

    • Promotion

      • Identify the main marketing message that will help ensure your target audience chooses this meal over others (e.g., appearance, creativity, cost, health benefits, taste).

      • Explain the nutrition information included in your promotion. If you are not including nutrition information, why not?


The Cook-off Competition will take place at a food laboratory at Michigan State University. The food laboratory is equipped with cooking stations that have utensils, equipment, and electric or gas stoves. Each station also has a sink with dish soap, hand soap, and scrubbing pads. At the cook-off, teams will be responsible for cleaning their equipment and returning it to its proper place. Teams MAY NOT bring their own utensils or equipment to the competition.

The equipment listed below will be provided for each team at their cooking station:

  • Blender

  • Electric hand mixer

  • Measuring cups

  • Measuring spoons

  • Silverware

  • Slotted or perforated spoons

  • Spatula

  • Strainers

  • Tongs

  • Vegetable brush

  • Vegetable peelers

  • Whisks

  • Wooden spoon

  • Broiler pan (1)

  • Cookie sheet (1)

  • Cutting board (2)

  • Mixing bowls

  • Paring knives

  • Rolling pin

  • Rotary beater

  • Baking pans

    • 13 x 9” (1)

    • 9” square (2)

    • 8” round (2)

    • 6 c muffin (2)

    • 10 x 16” (1)

  • Saucepans

    • 1 quart (1)

    • 2 quart (2)

    • 3 quart (1)

The following will also be provided:

  • Aprons

  • Dishcloths

  • Gloves

  • Hairnets

  • Paper towels

  • Water (2-3 gallons, for cooking)

Judging Criteria

Meals will be scored and judged by the following criteria:

  • Nutritional quality—meal follows the USDA Meal Pattern for grades 6-12

  • Nutritional quality—meal follows the USDA Nutrient Standards for grades 6-12

  • Use of local, seasonal Michigan ingredients

  • School food service replicability—time and labor to prepare meal

  • School food service replicability—use of USDA foods (federal commodity foods)

  • Taste

  • Affordability

  • Appearance/presentation

  • Creativity

  • Use of dark green and orange vegetables

  • Use of whole grains

  • Use of appealing, student-friendly foods

  • Creativity and quality of Marketing Flyer