MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - More than 100 high school culinary students from all over South Carolina were here in Myrtle Beach competing for the opportunity to represent the state and even earn scholarship money at the 15th annual ProStart Invitational.
Think Iron Chef – for high schoolers. The students have exactly 60 minutes to prepare a three-course meal – and they will be judged on every single second.
"It's very nerve wracking. You put your all into it you really want everyone to like it. You know that there are somethings you could have done better but you tried your best," said Chrysta Stevenson, a culinary student at Pelion High School.
Meals are judged on the obvious things like taste and presentation, but judges look for the details.
"Knife skills. So they have to do a minimum of three or four knife skills and they have to be represented on the plate in some form on the plate, and as a professional, I mean they have to be extremely precise. Safety, sanitation also extremely important," said lead judge Miles Huff.
There's also a management competition where students pitch an original restaurant idea.
Huff says his favorite part of the competition is seeing the future culinary stars thrive.
"One of these kids may experience dining in space, may be in charge of dining in space in their lifetime. Those types of things excite me. New foods on the market, everything is just wide open for these kids so they can take it to the next level," he said.
And the students? They're here for the love of the art.
"When I go to school to do it, it doesn't feel like a class, it just feels like what I love and if I can do that for the rest of my life I'm good," Stevenson said.
The winning team will be announced on Tuesday. They'll head to the national competition in Rhode Island in April and also receive a scholarship to continue their culinary education.