Rules & Guidelines

Jr Iron Chef VT Rules & Guidelines

Updated October 2018

Junior Iron Chef is a premiere statewide culinary competition for teams of Vermont students who create healthy dishes that inspire their school meal programs as part of the Farm to School efforts in Vermont. Jr Iron Chef is organized by VT FEED (Food Education Every Day), a project of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) and Shelburne Farms. We believe the most important part of this competition is the team work, collaboration, and team building that is developed over the months in preparation of the competition.


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.

Teams are encouraged to use original recipes. If the recipe is from a known source, you must credit that source.

Recipes should be easily followed and consist of affordable ingredients.

Savory recipes including entrées, side dishes, soups, sandwiches, and salads. Breakfast dishes are eligible for the competition. Dessert recipes and snacks are not allowed.

Only recipes that are one dish will 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 recipe, 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 with one exception: dry beans can be soaked and boiled with no seasoning other than salt.

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

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: 

  • 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. 

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 ask 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 the competition. Think local chef or foodie!

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, schools may send four teams.

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

Team members are required to wear sturdy close-toed shoes; clean, neat attire; and a hat or hairnet.  

If a student is sick he/she CAN NOT participate in 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 tape-line on the floor at each team's cooking station. Once the competition begins coaches may not cross this line.

Teams may bring propane-fueled tabletop burners with tanks that are no larger than one pound.

For food preparation the ONLY electric appliances allowed are: food processors, blenders, and mixers.. Prohibited electric cooking appliances include toaster ovens, hot plates, crock-pots, electric griddles, electric waffle iron, 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 the water you will need for cooking and food prep. NO WATER is available for cooking on-site and DISHWASHING IS PROHIBITED.

Team members on winning teams MUST be present at the event in order to receive a prize package. 


The following honors will be given in the Morning and Afternoon Award Ceremonies for each age category:

  • 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.


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, aprons, 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 local, seasonal products (only for the Lively Local Award) 
  • COMPLIANCE — Meets all Jr Iron Chef VT Guidelines and Rules 


Jr Iron Chef VT will provide:

  • Aprons for team members, if needed. 
  • Disposable gloves and hairnets, if needed
  • 6’ x 4’ work station with plastic table cloths 
  • Serving utensils and dishes for plating 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, saran wrap, or plastic containers for leftovers 
  • Uniforms, team signs for your 6’x4’ work station, and copies of your recipe for the audience 

Community oven policies: 

  • 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. 
  • Teams may use stainless steel and aluminum baking dishes only.