BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) – Three local high schools are serving up a new capstone project.

The first annual chef challenge took place at Arnold High School Wednesday morning. This competition is designed to prepare students for the culinary industry.

Culinary students from Arnold, Bay, and Mosley high schools put their skills to the test.

“It’s a great day for them to show off their carving skills as well as chicken and rice competition,” Chartwells community engagement specialist Stephanie Werchan said. 

Chicken piccata was on the menu, but each group had a different twist.

“Determined what they wanted to use for bread crumbs and make sure they don’t overcook it or undercook it and it presented well,” Mosley High School chef instructor Robin Downs said.

Some of the young chefs started by gathering their tools and ingredients and then got to work preparing their meals. While others tried their hand at fruit carving.

Chartwells brought in three judges to observe and taste test.

“We have Gen. Pierce’s personal chef representing the Air Force, we have the owner of Beef O’Brady’s on the beachside and we have a caterer, Cater by Carla so they can see the different opportunities they have when they graduate,” Werchan.

U.S. Air Force Sgt. Edrick Yodico was one of the guest judges. He said it is encouraging to see a program allowing students to try new things before college.

It is a program he wished was available while he was growing up in the Philippines.

“Students are able to learn a few things before they go out on their own,” Yodico said. “So it’s pretty amazing.”

The guests judged sanitation, taste, and presentation. 

“The pressure is immense, they get really nervous,” Arnold High School culinary instructor Billy Redd said. “Time management is always important having plates presented at a certain time.”

The instructors said this culinary program has allowed many students to go right into the restaurant industry while still attending classes.

“A couple of them work at Los Antojitos and several that work at Captain Andersons,” Downs said.

The group of students who won this year’s chef’s challenge was Arnold High School, in both the chicken piccata and the fruit carving.