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TJC Culinary Arts department hosts first high school cook-off


The Tyler Junior College Culinary Arts department recently invited area students to put their cooking skills to the test in the first-ever Apache High School Cook-off.

Four-member teams from seven area high schools competed in the daylong event that was held in two flights: savory and baking/pastry.

Participating high schools included Jacksonville, LaPoynor, Lindale, Ore City, Troup, Tyler and White Oak.

In the savory flight, teams were given 2.5 hours to cook an entire meal and 50 minutes to plate and present it. The menu included Caesar salad and chicken tenders, cream of mushroom soup, sauteed chicken breast with Chardonnay sauce, sauteed or pan-steamed broccoli, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes and braised chicken legs and thighs.

In the baking flight, teams had 3.5 hours to bake and display their items, including rolls, muffins, cookies, cream puffs and a decorated birthday cake.

“Judging was based on cooking techniques, taste, appearance and proper doneness, plus we looked at the sanitation and organization of their work stations and their basic skills,” said Chef Larry Matson, TJC Culinary Arts department chair and professor.

“We also looked at how they worked together as a team, since our industry is very team oriented. How you work with others is important.”

Shyrah Jones, Troup High School culinary arts instructor, said, “We started a competitive barbecue team, and we saw this as our next step — to compete in the more technical cooking. We’re looking forward to seeing what the kids can learn and what they can do.”

Jones said most of her students are freshmen and sophomores, many of whom are also busy with other school activities.

“We are a small school and they are involved in almost everything, so it’s a little bit harder for us to do competitions since we also have kids who are heavily involved in sports or academic activities,” she said.

The day ended with an awards ceremony.

In the savory category, White Oak took first place, with LaPoynor coming in second and Tyler placing third.

In baking and pastry, Jacksonville came in first, with Ore City coming in second and Tyler placing third.

“Our hope is that they had fun and enjoyed themselves,” Matson said. “Hopefully, they will consider culinary arts a bit more. Having this avenue, we hope that they may want to pursue this as a career and attend TJC someday.”

Jones said her a few of her students had already expressed further interest in a culinary career and in TJC, in particular.

“They were excited about coming to TJC and seeing what the kitchens were like, what they would get to cook with and how it would work here when they came to school,” she said. “So, hopefully they will graduate in a year or two and then be here in these halls.”

About the TJC Culinary Arts program
TJC Culinary Arts provides students with the opportunity to study in a state-of-the-art facility in George W. Pirtle Technology Center on the TJC Central Campus, in a fully equipped commercial kitchen with a dining area where students can develop their craft in a real restaurant setting.

The Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts prepares students for entry-level restaurant management positions. Students learn culinary and baking skills as well as management theories, practices and strategies. Much of their time is spent working in a culinary arts lab learning traditional, current, American and international cooking techniques as well as inventory management and purchasing.

A basic culinary certificate is for students to learn basic techniques in food safety, kitchen equipment and cooking. These courses offer fundamental principles of knife- and food-handling as well as nutrition and menu management. Students earning this certificate are prepared for entry-level positions in various types of kitchens.

A pastry arts certificate is available for individuals interested in the professional baking industry. Students learn the fundamentals of baking and cake decorating as well as food safety. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in the baking/pastry industry.

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