Student chefs compete for college scholarships in University City

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Jeannette Reyes reports during Action News at 6 p.m. on March 29. (WPVI)

A number of high school students traded in the classroom for the kitchen Wednesday, as part of a city-wide culinary competition.

"What I'm most nervous about? The chicken. Hope it turns out right. I have a thermometer, but you have to make sure it's not undercooked or else," said Randy Tran of Broomall.

The heat was cranked up and not just on the chicken.

"It's the beauty of the plating and the timing and everything, getting it right," said Tran.

Eighteen talented aspiring chefs from several local high schools battled it out in the kitchen on Drexel University's campus to compete for a shot at tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

The Careers Through Culinary Arts Program or C-CAP has awarded more than $50 million in scholarships nationwide over the last two decades.

Accomplished chef Richard Grausman founded C-CAP while on a culinary mission.

"Everybody was eating hamburgers, fried chicken and pizza, and I wanted to change the palette of America," said Grausman.

With the clock ticking and the pressure on, the students had two hours to come up with their masterpiece, with the judges watching closely.

Chef and restaurant owner, Theo Cheritos, won first place more than 20 years ago. He's now on the other side - judging the plates.

"Being fundamentally sound is super important. Also just knowing your way around the kitchen," said Charitos, Red Cedar Grille.

Back in the 90s, a full ride scholarship was $40,000. Now, it's a whopping $120,000 that's up for grabs. No pressure.

"That would be excellent. I'd love to win any prize, but first place is first place," said Tran.

Results will be announced at the annual C-CAP Awards Breakfast on April 6.

But considering last place is $2,000, students say, it's worth the wait.

"The significance of this is that they're basically going to change their entire life," said Culinary Arts teacher Penny Greenberg.

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