Students Dish it up in Local Beef Cook-off Challenge

Obion County Central High School students put their culinary skills to the test by crafting their own recipes using locally sourced beef from Giffin Farms, owned by Derek and Micayla Giffin out of Obion County, TN.  The beef was locally sourced through the Obion County Farm to School planning Team with project support from Chastity Homra – Coordinated School Health Director, and Michelle Bruner – OCCHS Culinary Arts Teacher.

Obion County Central High School Culinary Art Student Cook-off Winners (from left to right) second place winner Jason Hood, first place winner Jennifer Guerrero – 1st place winner, and second place winner Charlie Deal

“The Obion County Farm to School team sourced beef from Giffin Farms for the taste test, but we had additional frozen beef left over,” stated Chastity Homra, Coordinated School Health Director.  “The Culinary Arts Students had prepared Giffin Farm Beef for all school cafeterias in November 2021 for a local food taste test. FFA students helped serve the taco-seasoned beef to all students. We decided to host a local beef cook-off to create a fun way to use the local beef and hone the culinary arts students’ skills.” I love getting the kids involved so I thought what better way than to have them have a contest.  I enquired with Mrs. Bruner and she loved the idea.  It was fun hearing how they had to do research on a recipe and then tweak it to make it their own. 

The OCCHS Culinary Arts program offers a hands-on culinary arts training program where students learn about nutrition, cooking techniques, seasonings and flavorings, culinary laws,  food safety and career opportunities. These classes introduce students to a set of skills that combine both nutrition and cooking techniques.

Additionally, students receive hands-on training by working in the school cafeteria, side-by-side with school nutrition professionals. They provide meals to teachers and specialty meals.

“Prior to the beef taste test, students surveyed had limited knowledge that they could even source beef locally,” commented Caroline Ideus, Obion County Farm to School Coordinator from the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network. “Collectively, we are trying to find innovative ways to support school nutrition departments in helping them procure local foods and finding ways to return scratch cooking to prepare school meals.”

Under the direction of Culinary Arts instructor Michelle Bruner, the local food cook-off challenge gave the budding chefs the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in class and receive feedback on their cooking skills. Six teams with a total of 14 students participated throughout the day. 

The students, working in teams, created their own specialty recipes from scratch then presented them to a group of judges. The young chefs were judged on the following five categories: recipe development, professionalism, sanitation, presentation, and taste.

 “It was a fun experience and I enjoyed creating new recipes.”

Annabella Wooten, OCCHS Culinary Arts student

First place winners, Jennifer Guerrero and Tailior Bolden, worked together to create the perfect beefy quesadilla that included Giffin Farm Beef, diced tomatoes, sliced jalapeno peppers, onions, spices and cheese. 

Second place winners, Jason Hood and Charlie Deal crafted Ground Beef Pinwheels including Giffin Farm beef, cream cheese, bacon bits, cheese tortillas, and spices. Third place winners, Annabella Wooten and Connor Mayo worked together to create Breakfast Beef Bites including Giffin Farm beef, eggs, spices, creamed cheese, milk, and biscuits. All winners received a gift certificate from Sonic and the first-place winner’s recipe will be featured in the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide Magazine 2022 to be published this spring.  You can also find the recipes on the Coordinated School Health website on the homepage of the Obion County Schools website at

The award winning recipe will be featured in the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide 2022.

Photo: Obion County Central High School Culinary Arts Teacher, Michelle Bruner is passionate about teaching culinary skills to her students. 

~Samantha Goyret & Lauren Kendall
Printed on February 17, 2022 in the Union City Daily Messenger