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Teen chefs compete for culinary scholarships in ‘Top Chef’ style showdown

NEW YORK — Most teenagers would choose to spend their time browsing through Facebook or capturing the perfect selfie.

However these high school students are busy bringing the heat – literally.

Twenty-nine students from schools from across the five boroughs competed in a high stakes cook-off where scholarships to some of the most prestigious culinary schools in the country were on the line.

Its all part of the “Careers Through Culinary Arts Program" hosted by the Institute of Culinary Education in lower Manhattan.

The program lifts the most passionate and under-served students from the area, preparing them for a career in the culinary and hospitality industries.

For 17-year-old Jessica Eng of Queens, cooking is less of a hobby and more of a game changer.

“Cooking has just helped me come out of my shell a lot more,” she said. “Like it’s given me a passion because I never felt passion before.”

Brandon Bryan can relate. He was a single dad trying to navigate through high school in Long Island City. He landed a scholarship through C-CAP and years later he’s a sous chef at The Carlyle Hotel.

“Without C-CAP I wouldn’t be where I am or will be in the future,” he said. “With [the program] I just won a competition to travel to France – I mean, it’s gonna change my life forever.”

The students – all with unique stories – are fully aware of what’s on the line.

On this day, the menu calls for a two-course French meal – Hunter’s Chicken with tourne potatoes and dessert crepes with pastry cream and chocolate sauce.

C-CAP founder Richard Grausman was overwhelmed with the talent in the room.

“You could usually spot one or two people that stand out,” Grausman told PIX11 News. “So many were at the top of their game today.”
Judged on taste, presentation and technique among other things, the students will find out how well they did when the results are revealed at the annual C-CAP awards on April 7.