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Northern High School Culinary Arts Team Wins the North Carolina Junior Top Chef Competition

“You just want to take my mold home with you?” was Northern High School Culinary Arts teacher Peter Brodsky’s response on a recent afternoon, offering his chocolate mold to a student who needed a little more practice perfecting his truffles.

Brodsky, also credentialed as a Chef, is not only generous with his cooking equipment, but he’s also giving of his time. The last bell of the day had rung close to an hour earlier, and there he was, helping several students who had stayed late to get their truffles right.

Perhaps that is one reason why the Northern High School Culinary Arts Team won the North Carolina Junior Top Chef Competition on March 12. The team will now compete nationally in Tennessee.

The competition required participants to create and prepare an original recipe. The Northern team’s entry was Crispy Taquitos, which are chicken and vegetable filled tortillas, prepared with a tangy chipotle sauce. Students were required to record a video of the preparation process, all in one continuous shot with no edits. (Here is the LINK TO THE VIDEO submission.) 

“It’s really nice to be able to share my knowledge with the next generation of culinary professionals,” said Brodsky of his decision to take on teaching culinary arts nine years ago after years of working as a professional chef himself. 

Brodsky says he wants to equip his students with the best skills possible for making their way in the cooking world because, after all, “These students are going to be working in the restaurants where I eat for the rest of my life, right?

Where better to do this than in the gleaming, stainless-steel wonderland that is the professional-grade gourmet kitchen at the new Northern High School facility, which opened in fall 2023.

Northern Senior Brody Terry is one of the budding chefs who got to take advantage of the sparkling new kitchen. His success  in Northern’s Culinary Arts program  won him acceptance into the prestigious Johnson and Wales University College of Food Innovation and Technology in Charlotte next fall.

“The Culinary Arts class absolutely has taught me a lot not only about working in this industry, but as a person,” said Terry, who will study culinary arts broadly at first at JWU, then move into more specialized areas of the profession later in his college career. ““You have to be quick, have discipline, along with a lot of mental strength.”

Discipline and mental strength are most definitely key to this pursuit, as the team works together to produce massive quantities of tasty and elegant fare with their catering service. The group caters dozens of events both in Durham Public Schools and across the Durham community. In some cases the class prepares meals that will serve hundreds of people at one event. This generates funds to help sustain the program.

Jump-start your taste buds by taking a look at these offerings at one recent event: New York Strip Steak with Béarnaise sauce, chicken marsala, potato gratin, roasted root veggies with Brussels sprouts, assorted mini pies, and housemade sourdough bread (“Our class pet is a sourdough culture,” said Brodsky). Pork barbeque, collard greens, mac and cheese, potato salad, and banana pudding were served at another event. And at yet another: Turkey and brie paninis and Thai quinoa salad. 

“Any type of catered meal you can imagine, the students have done,” said Brodsky.

Brodsky, who has been at Northern for his entire nine years of teaching, is originally from upstate New York, where no high school culinary arts programs existed at the time. So he attended community college to pursue his dream of being a chef. He did so well that he ultimately landed at the Culinary Institute of America.

After that, his cooking skills took him across the country, to fine dining establishments such as Zuni Cafe in San Francisco and Spiaggia in Chicago. He was the inaugural chef at the very popular French restaurant Coquette in Raleigh. After a brief stint as a “lunch lady” at his child’s pre-school, he winded up at Northern.

Brodsky’s mission is to instill not only his love of cooking to his students, but also the desire to provide the highest standards that the finest of restaurants would hold.

“The work has to be quality work, or it is not worth doing,” he said.


See the NCDPI press release here: