DURHAM, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Two Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools finished in the top three in a state culinary competition, with young chefs from Independence High School coming out on top this week. 

Independence High School won the North Carolina ProStart Invitational’s culinary competition held March 19-21 by N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association at N.C. Central University. Ashe County High finished second and South Mecklenburg took third. 

The NCRLA is the voice of North Carolina’s $30 billion restaurant and lodging industry. South Meck also finished second in the management competition, won by Asheville High. 

This year, students from 14 teams representing nine schools put their skills to the test in front of industry leaders, family and friends with the hopes of earning more than $560,000 in scholarships. 

Students in the culinary competition had to design, prepare and serve a three-course meal using only two butane burners in 60 minutes. Judged by a panel of certified chefs using industry standards, the teams prepared a gourmet meal without electricity, running water or outside assistance. Independence’s menu consisted of fried green tomato, pan-seared kanpachi and steamed chocolate cake. 

The winners go on to represent the state against other qualifying teams from across the country for a chance to win the national title at the National ProStart Invitational May 2-4 in Washington, D.C. 

“As North Carolina’s hospitality industry continues to struggle with labor shortages, ProStart students are learning transferable skills that they can take anywhere once they complete the program,” said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of NCRLA and NCRLA Foundation. “These students are the best of the best, and I am proud to send them on to compete at the national level.”