Rules & Guidelines

Updated November 2017
Download a PDF of the Rules here.
Dowload a PDF of the Lively Local Form here.

I. Team Guidelines

  • Teams consist of 3-5 students in 6-8th grade or 9-12th grade. Due to some k-6 schools, some 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 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.
  • Teams have 90 minutes from start to finish to prepare dishes.
  • Schools are limited to 2 teams in each age group, middle school and high school.
  • 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 should NOT participate in the event.
  • Only students may cook during the competition. Coaches provide 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 gas-fueled tabletop burners with tanks that are no larger than one pound.
  • Food processors, blenders, and mixers are allowed. Prohibited electric cooking appliances include toaster ovens, hot plates, crock-pots, electric griddles, 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 to cook. NO WATER is available for cooking on-site and DISHWASHING IS PROHIBITTED.
  • Team members on winning teams MUST be present at the event in order to receive a prize package. 

II. Recipe & Local Food Guidelines 

NEW RULE - Every recipe must include one local ingredient, defined by being a Vermont product. In order for a recipe to be eligible for sumbmission, the local ingredient box must be checked with the local ingredient listed.

  • The goal of the competition is to promote recipes that use local and seasonal ingredients and could be replicated in a school kitchen. As such, recipes should be easily followed and consist of affordable ingredients.
  • Savory recipes including entrées, side dishes, soups, sandwiches, salads, and breakfast dishes are eligible for the competition. Dessert recipes and snacks are not allowed.
  • Dishes may not contain nuts, meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Teams are encouraged to use original recipes. If you use a recipe from a known source, you must credit that source.
  • 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.


  • Recipes must include at least five local ingredients to be eligible for the Lively Local Award.
  • Teams will submit a Lively Local Form by March 10, 2018 that indicates the origins of their local ingredients (e.g., carrots from Lewis Creek Farm). If your team does not submit a Lively Local Form by this deadline, they will not be eligible for the Lively Local Award.
  • Ingredients must be in quantities of ¼ cup or greater and be integral to the recipe to count towards the Lively Local requirement. Garnishes and condiments will not qualify as Lively Local ingredients.
  • Teams must purchase some of their ingredients for the Lively Local competition from a farmer, distributor, food hub, or store in their community.
  • 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. 

III. Awards

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.

IV.Judging Criteria

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 

V. Important Details

Jr Iron Chef will provide:

  • Aprons for team members, if needed. 
  • Disposable gloves and hairnets 
  • 6’ x 4’ work station with plastic table cloths 
  • Serving utensils and dishes for judging 
  • 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. 

Supplies to consider:

  • Blender, food processor, pots, and pans 
  • Spatulas, whisks, veggie peelers, and tongs 
  • Cutting boards, knives, hot mitts, or trivets, and mixing bowls 
  • Thermometers, timers, gas stove, and lighter 
  • Can opener and measuring cups/spoons 
  • Aluminum foil, saran wrap, or plastic containers for leftovers 
  • Uniforms, 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 assigns 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.