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Updated November 2021

Junior Iron Chef VT is a premiere statewide culinary competition for teams of Vermont students who create healthy dishes with local foods that inspire their school meal programs as part of the Farm to School efforts in Vermont. Jr Iron Chef VT is organized by Vermont Afterschool and VT FEED (Food Education Every Day). We believe the most important parts of this competition are learning about Vermont local foods, the teamwork, collaboration, and team building that is developed over the months in preparation for the competition.

*New rules for 2022

All participants, students, coaches, judges, vendors, and spectators must wear a mask at the 2022 Jr Iron Chef VT event on March 12, 2022.

Canned beans are allowed. While we will always suggest teams learn the value of taste, and texture of pre-soaking and cooking dry beans, we recognize the ease of canned beans in a recipe at the event. Canned beans are a nutritious, high protein food. When opting for canned beans we highly recommend draining and rinsing the beans to remove excess sodium. 


The goal of the competition is to promote recipes that use local and seasonal ingredients that could be replicated in a school kitchen. While making fancy dishes is fun and a great experience, our goal is to enable students to repeat their dishes for their home schools and groups. This means using simpler, replicable recipes, using easy to find ingredients, however this should not dissuade you from dressing up the dish to bring it up to competition level.

Teams are encouraged to use original recipes. Students and coaches work together to research and create recipes, learn basic cooking skills and discover the value of using local ingredients

If the recipe is inspired by a known source, you must credit that source.

Recipes should be easily followed and consist of affordable ingredients.

Eligible recipes include savory entrées, soups, sandwiches, and salads. Breakfast dishes are also eligible for the competition. Dessert recipes and snacks are not allowed.

Only recipes that are one dish will be approved. Recipes with a side dish will not be approved. For example, a burrito with salsa is considered one dish but a veggie burger with a side salad is considered two dishes and will not be approved.

Teams must prepare the recipe exactly as submitted and approved by Jr Iron Chef VT. Judges will be on the floor during the competition and will reinforce this rule.

Teams must bring ALL ingredients for their recipes, including local foods.

The dish must be made from start to finish during the assigned competition heat. All ingredients must arrive in their raw state except for canned beans which are allowed. No pre-cooked grains are allowed.

NOTE: Every recipe must include one local ingredient, defined by being a Vermont product. For a recipe to be eligible for submission, the local ingredient box must be checked with the local ingredient listed to qualify for submission. 

Teams are not allowed to provide samples of their recipe to the crowd. Only youth participants and judges may eat the prepared dishes at the competition. 

Recipe Quantity: On the day of the event, you will need a total of 48 ounces divided into the following portions (we will provide compostable display and serving vessels): 

2 – 8 oz. plated servings for display in the judging room and on the main floor 

12 – 2 oz. servings for judges to sample


Teams are required to comply with all rules and guidelines. Failure to do so may result in disqualification. 

Students, coaches and families must wear a mask.

For food safety reasons, dishes may not contain nuts, meat, poultry, or fish.

Teams consist of 3-5 students in 6-8th grade or 9-12th grade. Due to some K-6 schools, middle schools may be pre-approved for some, but not all, 5th grade team members.

Each team must have an adult coach who is a school representative or from a school related organization or parent/guardian of a team member. Coaches must be present during the entire competition. 

Teams may also have an Assistant Coach to support the Coach during practices and competition. Think local chef or cooking enthusiast.

To facilitate competition logistics, teams from the same school may be placed in the same heat.

Schools are limited to two teams. In the case of a 7th-12th grade school, schools may send up to four teams: two middle schools and two high schools.

Teams MUST comply with all competition deadlines including registration and payment.

Team members are required to wear sturdy closed-toed shoes; clean, neat attire including aprons (optional chef jacket) and a hat or hairnet. The event will have extra aprons and hairnets available.

If a student or coach is sick or experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms as described by the CDC, they are not allowed to attend the event.

Only students may cook during the competition.

Coaches provide encouragement and only very LIMITED guidance and should not touch or taste the food during the event unless there is a safety issue. There will be a blue tapeline on the floor at each team’s cooking station. Once the competition begins coaches may not cross this line or lean over the outside barriers. This rule is strictly enforced, and judges will disqualify a team if there is excessive coaching instruction. 

Teams are allowed to bring propane-fueled tabletop burners (camping stove) with tanks that are no larger than one pound. Please check that your tanks are full before the competition.

For food preparation the ONLY electric appliances allowed are food processors, blenders, and mixers. 

Prohibited electric cooking appliances include toaster ovens, air fryers, multi-cookers, pressure cookers, induction stoves, hot plates, crockpots, electric griddles, electric waffle irons, and microwaves.

Teams may not extend their workspace by adding a cart to the end of their stations. Carts used to transport equipment must be stored under tables provided. If they do not fit under the table, they must be stored in your vehicle during the competition.

Bring all of the water you will need for cooking and food prep. NO WATER is available for cooking on-site and DISHWASHING IS PROHIBITED.

Winning teams MUST be present at the event to receive a prize package. 


The following honors will be given in the Morning and Afternoon Award Ceremonies for each age category (high school and middle school):

CROWD-PLEASER – This award goes to the team that best incorporates color, texture, and taste for a true crowd-pleaser.

LIVELY LOCAL This award goes to the team that best highlights Vermont foods.

MISE EN PLACE “Everything in its place”, this award goes to the team that shows exemplary teamwork, order, and professionalism.


Recipes must include at least five local ingredients to be eligible for the Lively Local Award.

Teams will submit a Lively Local Form by March 6, 2022, that indicates the origins of their local ingredients (e.g., carrots from Lewis Creek Farm, Starksboro, VT). If a team does not submit a Lively Local Form by this deadline, they will not be eligible for the Lively Local Award.

Ingredients must be in quantities of ¼ cup or greater and be integral to the recipe to count towards the Lively Local requirements. Garnishes and condiments will not qualify as Lively Local ingredients.


This cooking competition is about school food and school food is for everyone. We have intentionally selected people as judges who have a wide range of culinary and food expertise.

Judges will be briefed on the methods on how to give constructive feedback to teams.

The following criteria will be used to evaluate teams: 

EXECUTION — Clean and presentable team outfits, including hard-soled shoes, hats or hair nets, aprons or chef jackets and safe food handling practices

TEAMWORK — Evenly distributed workload, team cohesiveness, and communication 

TASTE — A subjective category based on judge’s expertise 

CREATIVITY — Ingenuity of the ingredients used, creative use of ingredients 

LOCAL — Recipe is tasty and highlights at least one local, seasonal product (five + local products for the Lively Local Award) 

COMPLIANCE — Meets all Jr Iron Chef VT Guidelines and Rules 


We compost ALL food scraps, as well serving plates, bowls, tasting cups and utensils produced/used at the event. We expect everyone to compost and recycle throughout the event. 

Jr Iron Chef VT will provide:

  • Aprons for team members, if needed. 
  • Disposable gloves and hairnets, if needed
  •  A 6’ x 4’ workstation with table covers
  • Compostable utensils and dishes for plating the dishes to be judged
  • Community ovens set at 350°F

Teams must bring: 

  • All recipe ingredients including local food items. 
  • Cleaning supplies needed such as paper towels, non-toxic cleaning spray, or rags. 
  • A large tote to carry out dirty dishes; dishwashing is prohibited on-site. 
  • Heavy-duty 3-prong extension cord (12 gauge) if your recipe requires an electric hand tool such as a blender, food processor or mixer. 
  • Water for cooking: we recommend 2-3 gallons. 
  • Stainless steel or aluminum baking dishes if using the shared ovens: GLASS AND CERAMIC BAKING DISHES ARE PROHIBITED. 

Examples of other supplies to bring:

  • Propane stove, extra food tanks and lighter
  • Blender, food processor, pots, and pans 
  • Spatulas, whisks, veggie peelers, and tongs 
  • Cutting boards, knives, hot mitts, or trivets, and mixing bowls 
  • Thermometers, timers
  • Can opener and measuring cups/spoons 
  • Aluminum foil, food wrap, or containers for leftovers 
  • Uniforms, team signs for your 6’x4’ workstation, and copies of your recipe for the audience.

Community oven policies: 

  • Teams may use stainless steel and aluminum baking dishes only. No glass or ceramic.
  • Teams sign-up for an oven rack during the recipe submission process. Multiple teams are assigned racks in each oven. Please allow extra time for your dish to cook as the door may be opened and closed several times. 
  • Jr Iron Chef VT volunteers oversee and operate the ovens. 
  • Each team needs to assign an “Oven Captain” who keeps time on their dish and notifies the adult volunteer when to remove it from the oven. The Oven Captain leads the adult volunteer and hot dish back to their prep station.