If television cooking competitions have taught americans anything, it’s that the commercial kitchen is not to be entered lightly.Chefs are masters of their stainless steel domain, and mixing it up with them can be humbling to say the least. Yet, as with all revered disciplines, it’s being in the presence of a master that an apprentice truly learns. So it is that the Nantucket Junior Chef cooking competition stacks eager young culinary students with accomplished, battle-worn chefs for a crash course in the finer points of fine dining.
Celebrating its fifth year this September, Junior Chef offers much more than just a trial by fire for these culinary up-and- comers. Over its five-year history, the event has raised approximately $35,000 for the Nantucket Culinary Arts Foundation, which directly benefits the Nantucket High School culinary arts program. Students seeking to compete in national ProStart cooking competitions find their travel and ancillary costs covered by the money brought in by Junior Chef. Moreover, the event raises awareness for the invaluable trade programs being fostered at the Nantucket High School. Through the impassioned efforts of Orla Murphy-Lascola, Jenny Garneau, Nantucket High School’s Bob Buccino, NECN’s Jenny Johnson, and a slew of local restaurants and chefs, Junior Chef is championing aspiring young cooks, and, in turn, the future of food on Nantucket.
This year’s competition, taking place at Cisco Brewery on September 30th, sees the involvement of two new head chefs. Stephen Marcaurelle of the Boarding House and Andy Howard of American Seasons recently took over the reigns of their respective Junior Chef teams, and enter the competition looking to best one another, as well as the veteran, home-team challenger, Chef Neil Hudson of Bartlett’s Farm. While Chefs Howard and Hudson have the advantage of second year cooking students Louis Guevarra and Ingrid Mendez, and Brandon Harwood and Stephen Brown in their ranks, Chef Stephen may just have a ringer in Nantucket High School sophomore, Max Ritchie. Son of a former pastry chef, Ritchie has been behind the line at Arnos this summer, preparing pancakes, omelets and French toast for the breakfast and brunch rush. Joining Richtie to round out the Boarding House team will be Taja-lee Falconer. Keeping them honest will be NECN’s TV Diner co-host Jenny Johnson as well as a panel of discerning local palates.