Sevier County students whipped up more than good grades this year. Their culinary skills are getting national attention.

The culinary program at Sevier County High School has been added to the Elite 50, a list of schools nationwide recognized for their excellence in hospitality education. 

”We worked really, really stinkin‘ hard for this, said junior Erica Higgins. “It was just an honor to get to go because you start at the very bottom and then you get to a point and you know you can go further.”

We’ve all heard the saying if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen and SCHS students are taking that to a whole new level.

“It makes me feel proud knowing that we’re well-known around our county it just feels really good,” said sophomore Briza Silva. 

Taking home second place was amazing too, but even more so was coming back with more than $117,000 in scholarship money. 

”It feels amazing because I mean I know some students can’t, aren’t able to afford that and this is a really good opportunity, Silva said.  

The students admit the competition scene is nerve-wracking pulling together everything they’ve learned from how to bake pastries to butchering meat. 

You have all these cameras and all these judges watching every little mistake that you make and everything and if you make one mistake you can’t stop you gotta keep going because you’re timed through it,  said Higgins. 

When they’re not involved in a high-stakes competition, they’re serving those around them. 

We feed other people in the school and the county who don’t have food who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to get it for themselves. Some people live in cars that don’t have families, so we just feed people who are in need, said Higgins. We’re honored to feed them. 

This is the sixth time SCHS has received the honor. 

It is so humbling to receive this honor from Sullivan University, this is our sixth consecutive year to be in the top ’50 Elite programs in the state and not just in the state but the nation, said SCHS culinary instructor Sissy Ivy, 

The program also brings students over from Gatlinburg-Pittman and Pigeon Forge high schools. 

 I don’t know that I know of any students who work as hard as these students, Ivy added.