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Cooking up Change: Texas High School Culinary Team Advances to Nationals in Washington, D.C.

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Look out Iron Chef you have some competition around the corner in the talented young culinary stars from Milby High School, in Houston, Texas. These students recently won a cooking competition to advance to the nationals in Washington, D.C. later this summer for “Cooking up Change.” Just like the Food Networks culinary hit “Iron Chef,” student cooking teams from across the Houston Independent School District (HISD) competed to vie for a spot as top chefs of their district.

“Judges inquired about the creation of the dishes and the technical skills used to create them,” shared the district’s website. Milby High School’s Broadway Buffs winning menu is set to be served at all HISD schools starting the next school year.

1.The Competition

Milby Culinary Team

Photo: Facebook.com/HoustonISD

The talented group of young chefs came together on April 21, 2018, to showcase their talent against the other competing teams. “Six teams of student chefs clad in double-breasted white jackets and black-and-white houndstooth pants converged on the Art Institute of Houston last weekend, all aiming to slice and dice their way to a national title,” shared the district’s website.

Culinary students from Westside, Northside, and Milby participated in the “Cooking up Change” competition held annually. Cooking their way into the hearts of the judges, Milby’s Broadway Buffs Culinary team came out on top as the winners of this competition, advancing them to the finals this June.

The four-hour competition was a cultivation of months of advanced preparation. The 3-person team had the daunting task of creating a menu that included a main entrée, side dish, and fruit dish noteworthy enough to stand out from the rest while staying on budget.

2. Milby High School


Photo: Facebook.com/MilbyAlumni

Milby is one of the oldest and most beloved schools in the district with generations of family members having graced those halls, including this Hill Country writer. It is a joy to see how far this school has advanced over the years, offering the students wonderful opportunities to participate in activities such as the “Cooking up Change” competition.

Recently the school went through a massive overhaul to renovate the building, leaving only the historic front part intact as it has been for decades, but updating the rest to add state-of-the-art classrooms, a culinary area, and educational programs that provide the students with real-world experiences in various fields.

3. On the Menu

Milby Culinary Space

Photo: Facebook.com/MilbyAlumni

The winning recipes were Zucchini Pasta with Cajun Chicken, Pinto Beans, Tomato Soup, and Bananas and Yogurt.  According to a previous article from the district, the dishes were judged on “their originality, taste, texture, and appearance.” Meals ranged in the category from Asian to Latino-inspired dishes. Dishes such as Spicy Tuna Wraps, “Zucchanga” (zucchini lasagna) Domes, and Orange Chicken over Teriyaki Brown Rice were on display, making it a tough competition for the judges to vote on the winning combination.

“I feel so happy! We all cried,” junior Roberto Blas told the district’s news blog. Blas is a member of the Milby Broadway Buffs. “This process was so difficult. We all shared ingredients, which we only had 40 to choose from, so creating three different dishes was a challenge. But now Milby Buffs, we’re bringing the trophy home!”

Everyone walked away with a medal and certificate of completion, plus tickets to an Astros game to boot!  The runner-up team didn’t walk away empty-handed. They were awarded gourmet cutting boards and a $500 scholarship for the Art Institute of Houston. Grand Prize winners were treated to a culinary gift basket, chef’s knife set, and a scholarship in the amount of $1,000 to the Art Institute of Houston.

These aren’t your mom and dad’s school lunches. School is shaping up to be a place our students can expect a healthier lunch full of varieties. HISD leader Rhonda Skillern-Jones said it best in reference to this competition: “Your food was amazing. What this presentation shows is that you are brave enough to come out here and put your product up against other people’s. To me, that says that you are already building the skills that you need to be competitive in this career.”