12 Jun

6 Delicious Recipes from our 2024 K12 National Cook-Off Finalists!

We’re thrilled to introduce the talented young chefs who have made it to the final round of the 2024 K12 National Cook-Off! These culinary wizards have wowed us with their creativity, passion, and mouthwatering recipes. From savory to sweet, their dishes promise to tantalize taste buds and ignite your love for cooking. 

Check out the Recipes from our Top Six Finalists:

Andrew E., 7th Grade 🍽️ (Wisconsin Virtual Academy) 

Signature Dish: “My Reflection on a Plate” 

Description: “When I was six years old, I traveled to Japan and went fishing with my grandparents. I vividly remember watching my grandmother prepare the fish for what would become a culinary masterpiece. That fond memory inspired me to pursue a protein so widely consumed in Japan. But pan-seared (the way she did it) is harder to perfect, so by salt crusting it is more feasible for the average home cook. Even for the kugini, after I tried the traditional sand lance (a slender fish that grows in sand) delicacy from Japan, I felt as if though I could elevate to newer heights. The crickets may sound odd to Japanese and Americans alike, but they are a notable example of sustainable food. Though you may not find them at your typical grocery store, you can find them online at places like Amazon. As a plus, the kugini helps to season it so it is quite appetizing. As for rice, tradition states that short grain white rice to be the standard. Believe it or not I prefer white basmati rice over short grain white rice, so for this special occasion I chose to season it with “red gold,” because go big or go home, right? The Asian inspired chard, as well as the carrot puree were things my mom had always made for us. The mouthwatering aromas were too good to bypass. Besides our entire family loves it, so incorporating those into my dish provided something we could all enjoy. I hope you can learn something from this recipe, but more importantly enjoy the cooking process as much as I did. 😊” 

Full Recipe and Ingredients: 

Prep time: 20 minutes 

Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes 

Ingredients for the salmon:  

  • 1 (9 oz) center cut, skin on Scottish salmon fillet 
  • 2 cups of table salt 
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour (optional) 
  • 2 egg whites 
  • 3-4 slices of kelp rehydrated and drained, or enough to wrap entire salmon fillet 
  • kaiware daikon sprouts for garnish (optional) 

Ingredients for the ginger saffron rice: 

  • ½ cup white basmati rice, rinsed  
  • ½ tsp powdered cardamom 
  • ½ shallot OR ¼ small onion chopped 
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1/3 cup filtered water plus 3 tbsp to bloom saffron 
  • ½ cup Better than Bouillon chicken stock, reconstituted to label instructions 
  • 7-8 stigmas saffron, crushed 
  • 4-5 fresh ginger slices 1/6 inches thick 
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced 
  • Pinch of salt, plus at end to taste 

Ingredients for the red chard: 

  • 7-8 oz red chard, leaves cleaned, chopped into bite sized pieces, massaged until bruised, rinsed, and dried. Chop stems diagonally into 1/6-inch slices 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1 tbsp of canola oil 
  • ½ tsp low sodium soy sauce 
  • ½ tsp oyster sauce 
  • Dash of sesame oil 

Ingredients for the cricket kugini: 

  • 3 tbsp dried, lightly salted whole crickets 
  • 2 tbsp less sodium soy sauce 
  • 1 tbsp mirin 
  • 2 tsp packed light brown sugar 
  • 1 ½ tsp fresh ginger, minced 

Ingredients for the carrot, miso, and tofu puree: 

  • ½ cup frozen carrots, cut 
  • 6 oz soft tofu, water discarded 
  • 1 tbsp brown miso 
  • 1 tbsp packed brown sugar 
  • 2 tbsp canola oil 
  • ½ tbsp sesame oil 
  • 1 tbsp less sodium soy sauce 
  • ½ tsp fresh ginger minced 

Recipe (the order goes to the following. Carrot miso tofu puree, rice, fish, chard, and finally, cricket kugini):  

  • Move oven rack to middle, and heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend all the ingredients for puree in blender until smooth. If you want a smoother texture, pass it through a fine mesh strainer into a medium-sized bowl. Put puree into fridge and keep cool. 
  • Add saffron and 3 tbsp water to ramekins and let steep. Heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium, and add olive oil, shallots, and a pinch of salt.  
  • Bring the heat down to low, and mix until shallots are softened, but not browned 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and briefly toast until fragrant, 30 seconds.  
  • Add rice and toast, stirring constantly until edges are translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add saffron water, chicken stock, water, cardamom, and ginger. Bring heat down to low and continue to cook rice, mixing occasionally until al dente and water has been absorbed 9-11 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, keep warm until plating. 
  • While the rice is cooking, in a large bowl beat egg whites until uniform. Add salt and flour to egg whites and mix until pasty consistency has been reached (you can add water if too dry, or more salt if too wet), set aside.  
  • Drizzle soy sauce evenly over fish fillet and then wrap with kelp. On an aluminum foil rimmed 12 inch by 8-inch baking sheet, use 1/3 of salt mixture to form rectangle 1/6 inch thick big enough to place salmon fillet on top.  
  • Place the kelp wrapped salmon in the middle of the salt rectangle and paste remaining salt on to the fish.  
  • Caution: Make sure that the kelp has fully surrounded fillet, as any salt touching the fish will make it overly salty and inedible. Smooth any edges with spatula to form a dome around fish. Put the dome into the oven and bake, flipping halfway through (about 18-20 minutes total) or until internal temperature of fish has reached 130-135 Fahrenheit (for medium). Once cooked, take out and let rest, still in the salt crust until plating. 
  • When salmon is cooking, heat canola oil over medium in 12-inch, nonstick skillet. Add garlic and briefly toast until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add chard stems and leaves, and sauté until leaves are wilted but still have texture. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Finally, in a 10-inch nonstick skillet, add soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, and ginger. Reduce over medium high heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning until sauce begins to bubble. Pour sauce over crickets and toss to evenly coat (be careful not to crush their delicate bodies!).  
  • Fan quickly for shiny effect. Plate and serve. 

Stella R., 9th Grade 🍽️ (Golden Valley Charter School) 

Signature Dish: “Oh My Cod!” 

Description: “I chose to make this dish because I love fish, and I also wanted to make something healthy. This dish is perfect for that because I learned that cod is a heart-healthy fish and is delicious! I have never made cod before, so I also wanted a challenge. Quinoa is also healthy, and I chose quinoa because it has a really cool texture that I thought would go really well with the cod.  Asparagus is healthy and beautiful! (And also, delicious of course). I chose the lemon cream sauce for the cod because I love lemon and thought it would add a nice, light, tangy flavor to the dish! After reading the list of requirements, I made a list of all possible choices for each thing, then narrowed it down to what I thought would taste great together and look amazing too!” 

Time to Cook: 1 hour and 15 minutes  

Full Recipe and Ingredients: 

Lemon sauce: 

  • ⅓ cup red quinoa 
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus  
  • ½ cup heavy cream  
  • ⅔ cup white quinoa  
  • ¼ tsp fine grain sea salt 
  • ½ small clove garlic  
  • 2 cups water  
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder 
  • 2 Tbsp frozen lemon juice  
  • ¼ tsp cardamom    
  • 1 tsp ghee 
  • ¼ tsp coriander  
  • ¼ tsp sage 

Cod and Garnish: 

  • ½ tsp fine grain sea salt 
  • ½ pound cod 
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill 
  • 1 tsp fresh dill   
  • ½ tsp salt  
  • 6 strips lemon zest 
  • 1 Tbsp ghee 
  • ¼ tsp pepper    
  • 2 leaves of red leaf lettuce 
  • 2 Tbsps frozen lemon juice 


  • Rinse quinoa in cool water until water runs clear. 
  • In a pot, combine quinoa and water and bring to a rolling boil. 
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cover for about 15-20 minutes. 
  • Mix in cardamom, coriander, sage, salt, dill, ghee, and lemon juice. 


  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. 
  • Get ready a large bowl of ice water. 
  • Gently place asparagus into the boiling water and cook for 1 ½ minutes. 
  • Gently take out of water and place in ice water for about 30 seconds. 
  • Heat a large pan with ghee on medium-low, then place asparagus inside. 
  • Sprinkle salt and garlic powder evenly over the asparagus and gently roll them around. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until slightly golden brown. 

Lemon Sauce:  

  • Grate garlic very finely. Place garlic in a pot and turn on heat to medium-low. 
  • Pour in cream and add lemon juice ice cube. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, turn off heat and let cool. 


  • *Prepare plates before you start the cod. 
  • Lay 1 leaf of lettuce on each plate, then scoop quinoa onto the leaf. 
  • Put asparagus in a row evenly on each plate beside the quinoa and lettuce. 
  • Lay out cod on a clean, flat surface. Take ½ the salt and ½  the pepper and sprinkle over fish and rub in gently. Flip fish over and use the rest of the salt and pepper and repeat. Cut fish into 2 pieces. 
  • Heat pan on a 3 (medium-low) and place ghee on top. Spread ghee evenly, then place 2 fish filets in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes on thinner fish, and 3 for a bit thicker. Flip each fish carefully then cook another 2-3 minutes.  
  • Carefully slide each fish onto prepared plates. Drizzle lemon sauce over fish then garnish with dill and lemon zest carefully on top. 

Esmeralda S G., 11th Grade 🍽️ (Indiana Digital Learning School) 

Signature Dish: “Confit Byaldi (Ratatouille Byaldi)” 

Description: “The reason I chose this dish is because I like to challenge myself and make dishes from around the world. Also, I was inspired by the movie Ratatouille.” 

Time to Cook: 3 hours and 15 minutes 

Full Recipe and Ingredients:  

Basque Piperade Recipe 

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock 
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped 
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped 
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped 
  • 2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and finely chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika 
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar 
  • 1 (15-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes 

Gather the ingredients. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. 

Sauté the onion, peppers, garlic, salt, paprika, black pepper, and sugar, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through. 

Add the tomatoes and vegetable stock to the cooked vegetables and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened. 

Confit Byaldi Recipe 

  • 1 cup piperade 
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced 
  • 1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced 
  • 1 medium chinese eggplant, thinly sliced 
  • 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon thyme 
  • 1 tablespoon basil 
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette 
  • 1 dash sea salt 

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Lightly grease a large round or oval baking dish. 

Spread the piperade along the bottom of the dish. Alternating ingredients, arrange the zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes in a spiral pattern around the dish. Sprinkle the squash and tomatoes with the chopped garlic, thyme, and basil. 

Cover the confit byaldi with a single layer of parchment paper cut to fit the inside of the dish and rest atop the ingredients. Bake the ratatouille for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and continue baking for an additional 25 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. 

Drizzle the surface of the confit byaldi with balsamic vinaigrette and season it with salt and pepper. Serve the dish fresh from the oven or allow the flavors to develop and mellow in the refrigerator for a day. 

Nadia S., 9th Grade 🍽️ (Insight School Of Washington) 

Signature Dish: “Salmon Serenade and Pea Pizzaz” 

Description: “I chose to make this dish because of all the health benefits. The coconut that is on top of the salmon helps your brain health. The mashed potatoes help keep your heart healthy, the kale supports your immune system and your eye health as well as keep cancer away. The sprouts are an antioxidant, the salmon help with brain health, and the tomatoes reduce inflammation. So, I chose this dish because of its amazing look alongside its great health benefits.” 

Time to Cook: 2 hours 

Full Recipe and Ingredients:  

Start by prepping the salmon and seasoning it with cayenne pepper, turmeric, and paprika. Place drizzle of coconut oil on top. Place on baking sheet and set aside.  

Wash and peel purple potatoes. Cut into quarters and place in pot with water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes.  

While potatoes cook, place salmon in oven for 15-20 minutes. Wash spinach and place in tiny pan with olive oil. Cook until darker color.  

While Spinach cooks, wash tomatoes and cut in half. Place tomatoes in tiny pan with olive oil and cook until soft.  

While those cook, place peas in pot with water and cook until soft. While those cook, strain potatoes and mash. Add in butter and sour cream until creamy. Once spinach and tomatoes are done, take off heat and set aside.  

Place peas in blender and blend with water until they reach a drizzling consistency. Once salmon is done, take out of oven. Drizzle pea sauce in a circle on the plate.  

Place two piles of spinach on each side of the circle.  

Place three tomatoes on one circle.  

Place some mashed potatoes in center of circle and shape as desired.  

Place a tiny pile of spinach on top of the mashed potatoes.  

Then place salmon on top of mashed potatoes and spinach. Finally, top the salmon with some sprouts and serve. 

Alivia A., 7th Grade 🍽️ (Texas Online Preparatory School) 

Signature Dish: “Alivia’s French Cut Lamb with Poblano” 

Description: “I like to experiment with new foods and lamb is a new ingredient for me. I enjoy making up my own plating sauces and demi glazes. My spice rubs are made from fresh ingredients and produce that I dehydrate, grind and mix to create my own taste. Since I’ve never cooked Lamb, I choose this dish to challenge myself.” 

Time to Cook: 1 hour and 30 minutes  

Full Recipe and Ingredients: 

The first thing I did was clean and prep all my ingredients. My seasoning is handmade, so I dehydrated my produce and then ground it to a mixed spice.  

Golden Mashed Potatoes:  

Bring potatoes to a boil until soft. Remove excess water and hand mash.  

Add 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup cream, 2 Tablespoons cream cheese, salt and pepper and cream together.  

Next, I steamed my carrots and asparagus to el dente then put them into a pot with melted butter and parsley to simmer for 2 minutes.  

I made a plating sauce by first making a poblano and spinach rue:  

  • 2 tablespoons butter into skillet, add 1/4 cup of blackened and sautéed poblano peppers, then add one tablespoon flour, cook until slightly brown to remove flour taste.  
  • Add 2 cups heavy cream and bring to soft boil.  
  • Add 1 teaspoon of beef bouillon. Fine chopped spinach and add to sauce until heated. Pour sauce in blender and smooth.  

(Seasoning: Ground onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, ground red pepper, paprika, brown sugar, white sugar, MSG, equal parts)  

For the Lamb, I heated olive oil, butter, rosemary, thyme and garlic in a cast iron skillet. I then seared my seasoned lamb to get a nice semi char on all sides and cooking internal temperature to a medium/medium rare at 145 taking approximately 7 to 8 minutes per side.  

Remove Lamb to rest and prepare demi glaze by adding red wine and beef broth to the lamb dripping left behind in the skillet, bring to boil then cook until reduce to a thick sauce. Begin plating for presentation.  

For garnish on the lamb, I used deep-fried poblano strips, dehydrated spaghetti squash, and micro greens which are all optional. Enjoy! 

Aliyah A., 11th Grade 🍽️ (Cyber Academy of South Carolina) – People’s Choice Winner 

Signature Dish: “Sweet & Sour Tropical Island” 

Description: “I chose to make this dish because I felt as though I could be most creative with this food choice. Choosing a dish with tropical colors and fruits would make a happy and bright display.  Since this competition is based on creativity, I knew that with this meal choice of mine would allow me to have fun and would also give me a challenge to present a creative display and presentation of a “Sweet and Sour Tropical Island”!” 

Time to Cook: 2 hours and 30 minutes  

Full Recipe and Ingredients: 

My theme for this competition is *Tropical Island*. My complete menu is: 

– Sweet & Sour Chicken  

-White rice 


-Pineapple Coconut milk shake 

-2 Edible Fruit arrangements 

I used yellow decorations and tropical fruits to tie in the theme of a tropical island to keep the presentation bright and coordinated. I hope you all enjoy my meal presentation and I hope to see you all in round 2! 

Firstly, I fully cleaned, skinned, cut and deboned 3lbs of chicken legs; then I seasoned the chicken with black pepper, Creole seasoning, garlic powder, cayenne, sazon, kicken chicken seasoning, and a little oil for moisture. There was no specific amount of seasonings that I used because I judged it by look;  

Then I coated the chicken with All Purpose flour, and cornstarch; then I pre-heated vegetable oil in a wok for 5 minutes; then fried the chicken pieces on high flamed oil for 10 minutes, or until well done, golden, and crispy.  

While the chicken was frying I made the sweet & sour sauce– in a sauce pan, I mixed 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of tomato ketchup, 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup of pineapple juice, a half of a lemon juice along with its zest, 1 garlic clove grated, 1/4 teaspoon of ginger paste, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper.  

I cooked the sweet & sour sauce for about 3-5 minutes on medium flame adding equal amounts of cornstarch mixed in water to obtain the proper consistency.  

Then I made white rice by putting a little oil in the bottom of a pot, then added 2 cups of rice along with 4 cups of cold water, and salt to taste. I then let the rice come to a boil then lowered the heat to a low flame and let it cook for 10 minutes.  

Then I made the frozen broccoli by adding the broccoli to a saucepanpan with 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 tsp of salt & 1/2 tsp of pepper.  

Then I mixed the fried chicken pieces into the sweet & sour sauce and mixed it lightly until all pieces were covered; then I took a fresh pineapple, cut it in half the long way, and removed all the pineapple fruit from inside of the pineapple to make a bowl; then I placed the sweet and sour chicken into the pineapple bowl on one side; then I put the broccoli and rice on the other side of the pineapple; then I cut up 3 scallions in small rings and I garnished the chicken with the scallions.  

On to the next step was preparing the Milkshake. I blended 1 cup of ice, 1/4 cup of coconut milk, 1/2 cup of milk, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup sugar into a blender.   

While the drink was blending, I cut off the top of a pineapple and took all the pineapple fruit out of the middle then filled it with my prepared milkshake. Then I topped the milkshake with whipped cream and used a pineapple ring (opened in 1 spot) as the handle of the “pineapple cup” and placed a straw into the drink.  

I made 2 edible arrangements to complete my tropical island display:  

  1. I sliced 3 lemons and placed them along the sides of a tiny bowl in the shape of a flower 
  1. I also made a parrot (bird). I took a pineapple, cut the bottom off and carved the upper half of the fruit as the head and body of the parrot and then carved the green spiky part of the pineapple to shape the tail of the parrot. After that I cut and shaped the bottom part of the carrot and used it as the nose of the bird and used cloves as the eyes.  

The Final Cook-Off Battle: 

Mark your calendars for July 13, 2024, when our finalists will battle it out in Arlington, VA. The aroma of sizzling pans, the clatter of knives, and the thrill of competition await! 

Stay tuned for the Cook-Off episode that will highlight the finalists’ journey, feedback from the judges, and the final cook-off showdown (coming virtually to you August 2024). These culinary masterpieces will soon grace your screens, inspiring your own kitchen adventures. 

Let’s celebrate the joy of cooking, the magic of flavors, and the camaraderie of food lovers. Bon appétit! 🍽️✨