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 13, 2015. 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(s) for the Recipe Contest by March 25, 2015. Finalists will be announced by April 15, 2015.
  • Finalists from the Recipe Contest will be eligible to participate in the Cook-off Competition at Michigan State University on May 13, 2015. Teams must register to participate in the cook-off by April 29, 2015.

II. Recipe Contest

Students are strongly encouraged to work with their school food service director to develop their recipes. Consulting with their school food service director helps to ensure recipes/menu are reproducible in a school food service setting and that current USDA Nutrition Standards for School Year 2014-15 are being followed.

Recipe Contest Rules

  • A Team Application and Recipe Entry Form(s) must be submitted to the Michigan Department of Education via email by March 25, 2015.
  • 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 breakfast 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:








Swiss Chard



Salad mix/greens

Frozen strawberries



Scallions/green onions

Frozen blueberries



Sweet potatoes


  • 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
    • Full list 
  • Follow the USDA Meal Pattern for grades 9-12. The 3 required food items for a daily breakfast are listed below in bold as well as optional items. All bolded items must be present in the minimum amounts specified.
    • Fruits:  1 cup minimum 
    • Vegetables:  Optional - May count toward 1 Cup Fruit Requirement 
    • Grains:  2 ounce equivalent minimum 
    • Meat Alternate:  Optional – May serve after 1 ounce equivalent grain served and may count toward grain component requirement
    • Milk:  1 cup minimum (must be fat free unflavored or flavored or 1% unflavored)
  • Meet the USDA Nutrient Standards for grades 9-12 specified below.
    • Sodium:  <640 milligrams (Target 1 SY 2014-2015)
    • Calories:  450-600 
    • Saturated Fat:  <10% of total calories
    • Trans Fat:  0 grams per serving
  • Be analyzed for nutrition information using USDA’s SuperTracker website
    • Visit and click on “Food Tracker” to create a breakfast meal. 
    • Use the “Create Recipe” function for recipes, your recipe will automatically be added to your “Favorite Foods List”. When all recipes have been entered, add one serving of each to a breakfast meal along with all other food items planned with your breakfast menu (DON’T FORGET THE MILK!). 
    • When complete select nutrient intake report and export the report as a PDF. The “Average Eaten” column details all entered data – review this prior to submission to ensure if meets USDA Nutrient Standards as listed above. 
    • Notes: Teams will need to create an account to save recipes. 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.
  • Bonus Points! Consider incorporating one of the five food trends below:
    • Local Food Rules! Include five local, seasonal Michigan ingredients (list above). 
    • Grab-N-Go Breakfast! Ensure menu is easily adaptable for a Grab-N-Go Kiosk.
    • Going Greek with Yogurt! Incorporate Greek yogurt into your menu.
    • Unique Whole Grains! Incorporate one of these whole grains not often used at breakfast: amaranth, barley (whole, NOT pearled), bulgar, buckwheat, popcorn, quinoa, teff, whole-grain rice, wild rice.
    • Lots of Legumes! Incorporate legumes into your menu.
  • Recipe Tips – Be creative!! We have seen a million breakfast burritos! We encourage teams to think outside the box. Consider culturally diverse meals or meals that represent the school’s culture or the community.
Recipe Contest Judging
  • Recipes will be scored and judged based on the following criteria:
    • Nutritional quality—meal follows the USDA Meal Pattern for grades 9-12
    • Nutritional quality—meal meets the USDA Nutrient Standards for grades 9-12
    • Use of local, seasonal Michigan ingredients
    • School food service ability to replicate — time and labor to prepare meal
    • School food service ability to replicate — use of USDA foods (federal commodity foods)
    • Bonus Points! Incorporate one or more of the five food trends listed above into your menu.

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 Michigan Junior Chef Cook-off Competition on May 13, 2015, at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, Michigan. Teams must register to participate in the cook-off by April 15, 2015.

Cook-off Competition Rules

  • 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.
  • Reimbursement:
    • 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 include 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:

o   Blender

o   Cutting board (2)

o   Measuring cups

o   Mixing bowls

o   Silverware

o   Pairing knives

o   Spatula

o   Rolling pin

o   Tongs

o   Rotary beater

o   Vegetable peelers

o   Baking pans

o   Wooden spoon

o  13 x 9” (1)

o   Cookie sheet (1)

o  9” square (2)

o   Electric hand mixer

o  8” round (2)

o   Measuring spoons

o  6 c muffin (2)

o   Slotted or perforated spoons

o  10 x 16” (1)

o   Strainers

o   Sauce pans

o   Vegetable brush

o  1 quart

o   Whisks

o  2 quart

o   Broiler pan (1)

o  3 quart

The following will also be provided:

o   Aprons

o   Hairnets

o   Dishcloths

o   Paper towels

o   Gloves

o   Water (2-3 gallons, for cooking)

Cook-off Competition Judging

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

  • Nutritional quality – meal follows the USDA Meal Pattern for grades 9-12
  • Nutritional quality – meal meets the USDA Nutrient Standards for grades 9-12
  • Use of local, seasonal Michigan ingredients
  • School food service ability to replicate — time and labor to prepare meal
  • School food service ability to replicate —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

Go to Forms for all application materials.