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CHICAGO The knives were sharpened as food prep got underway Saturday in the Loop as more than 45 people competed in a culinary competition that has returned for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Six Illinois teams gathered at the event, battling it out for the title as the best at the event.

Malachi Baines of Rich Township High School was among those competing, looking to nail down a salmon to prove he has the heart of a future chef.

The competitors are all high school students, ranging from the ages of 16 to 18 years old. After growing up watching a variety of cooking reality shows, they now finally have their chance to shine.

“They practice sometimes eight hours a day on the weekends,” Kristen Hodges of the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation said.

Michael Taus, a judge and executive chef at the Wit Hotel watches the teens in awe.

“Illinois Restaurant Association is just amazing to give these opportunities to give someone a scholarship to, be a chef, or something else,” Taus said.

As for the teens competing, it’s a chance to give their food exposure to Michelin-star chefs as they look to launch into a highly competitive field.

The final results for the competition were as following:

1st Culinary – Technology Center of DuPage 

2nd Culinary – Woodruff Career & Technical Center 

3rd Culinary – Rich Township High School 

1st Management – Woodruff Career & Technical Center 

2nd Management – Oswego High School 

3rd Management – Benito Juarez Community Academy