CRESTVIEW — Kaitlynn Southard says she wants to enter more cooking competitions after placing third in the 4th Annual Okaloosa County Future Chefs Competition.
"I'm glad that I placed ... I think my sandwich is really good," the 11-year-old Laurel Hill School student said.
Kaitlynn's sandwich, "The Hammy Situation," which included brown sugar ham, low-fat mayonnaise, nectarine salsa, parsley, cilantro between two pieces of pita bread, competed against 22 elementary school students' entries.
Thursday's event, held at Walker Elementary School, wasn't Kaitlynn's first time as a chef. She created a jambalaya recipe at home, where she enjoys learning new recipes, she said.
"When my mom is at work, I will cook a lot for my dad and my brother," Kaitlynn said. "It's just having fun in the kitchen."
Future Chefs, sponsored by Sodexo and the Okaloosa County School District, required participants to use fresh fruits and vegetables for preparing healthy sandwiches within 30 minutes. Participants also had to explain their culinary creations before a judging panel.
Maddie Hinze from Plew Elementary School won first place; Jace Barefield from Edge Elementary School placed second.
The competition attracted significantly more Future Chefs than the 2013 event, according to Jack Noonan, the school district's Sodexo operations manager.
"There were 36 entries last year; this year we had about 80," he said.
The competition allows children to express their creative skills, said Baker resident Kelli Doss, mother of participant Brady Fields, 10.
"This is something that he did on his own ... it has really been awesome that he can excel at this," she said.
Brady, a Baker School fourth-grader, made a grilled black bean and tuna wrap for the competition. He said he's considering becoming a chef when he grows up.
"I like that other people can taste what I make," he said.