Cooks in the Hall, Heathwood’s newly formed middle school cooking team, isn’t messing around—just a few months into their existence, they’re diving straight into a cutthroat cooking competition with Porter Gaud, Charleston Day School, and Charleston Collegiate. And they’re confident enough in their culinary prowess that they’re encouraging all members of the Heathwood community to come cheer them on.
The competition, hosted by Porter Gaud, will take place Wednesday, November 8 at 6 p.m. in the Wendell-Center Gymnasium. The four teams will go head-to-head in a cook-off that promises to be as ruthless as any on TV. Celebrity chef Jet Tila, who has been featured on Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, Iron Chef America, and The Best Thing I Ever Ate, will host. Suggested admission donations are $5 for students and $10 for parents, and all proceeds will support the charity of the winning team’s choice. The Heathwood team’s charity is Rise Against Hunger.
While the teams will know in advance what they’re cooking, they still won’t know exactly what’s coming. The competition will feature sabotages and cooking questions that will keep them on their toes. That’s why Cooks in the Hall have been working hard all semester, meeting with Heathwood Head Chef Jim McMahon two times a week before school and on occasional Saturdays to perfect their teamwork and hone their craft.
Team member Sophie Homeyer, ’24, said the opportunity to improve her cooking skills made the competition very appealing: “Cooking has always been important to my family and my dad’s an amazing cook, but I’ve never been able to cook as much as I wanted to. Plus, we’re competing in support of a great cause.”
“I’m excited about the competition because it will give me even more experience and it’s a chance to apply what I’ve learned through being on the team so far,” said Leah McMahon, ’24.
Chacey Cox, ’24, noted that her whole family has benefitted from her participation on the team: “I’ve learned how to make Alfredo sauce, and my mom doesn’t know how to make that, so that was pretty cool, and now I’ve cooked it for my whole family,” she said.
As the team practiced on a recent afternoon after school, they focused not only on cooking technique but also on presentation (chopped basil for a garnish, or whole leaves?) and, perhaps most crucially, on anticipating and preparing to overcome sabotages. “If another team is able to take away your butter,” asked Chef Jim, “what can you use in its place?” Olive oil, the team decided, proving that they’re already problem-solving like the pros.
“I’ve warned Chef Danny at Porter Gaud that they’d better watch out,” said Chef Jim. “We’re in it to win it.”
Come support Cooks in the Hall in their first competition!
When: Wednesday, Nov. 8, 6 p.m.
Where: Porter Gaud’s Wendell-Center Gymnasium
What to expect: Great food, fun, and surprises
Suggested donation: $5/students, $10/adults