It was another beautiful sunny day when I got in the truck to head to good ole Dallas Texas. I knew that this event was going to be an awesome experience. I was headed to the State Finals for the FCCLA Mystery Basket Contest. FCCLA stands for Family, Career, Community Leaders of America. It is an organization that youth can become involved in at their high-schools. The Mystery Basket contest is just one of the many events at FCCLA competitions.
I knew this was going to be a special event because not only was it the State Finals, but I had the privilege of attending almost all the regional events. I had seen most of the contestants compete in order to make it to the State Finals and it was going to be interesting to watch them compete again to see the different dishes that they were going to make. The Mystery Basket event is sponsored by Johnson & Wales University and the Texas Beef Council. This year I had the honor of working with Elena Doerrie and Martin Stout from Johnson & Wales. They are amazing people and if you are interested in going to culinary school they would be excellent people to contact and speak with. I can also help get those contact numbers if needed, or you can check out their website at
For the Mystery Basket contest the contestants are given a bag that normally contains a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. They have no idea what is going to be in the bag until the start of the competition. They are then given twenty minutes to plan a dish and then given an additional forty minutes to cook the dish. Texas Beef Council provides the mystery basket items and additional pantry items that are used to make the dishes. This ranges from fresh produce, to milk, to pasta, all the way to seasonings for their steaks. Let’s just say I learned my way around the grocery store extremely well in the last couple of months! Who knew that butter lettuce existed?!? I am so very thankful that I had this opportunity to learn about some fantastic foods that I had no idea existed. Throughout the year, we had a variety of different items in their bags at the regional events. Some of those items included: carrots, celery, red bell peppers and avocados. More importantly we always included a steak in the bag! For the final event, we pulled out a huge surprise by putting an eggplant in the bag along with our steaks. During the contest the contestants are being judged the entire time, and then at the end the food is tasted and judged as well. At the end of the event the person with the most points wins. At the finals, we had two separate rounds of students competing. My job was to help make sure the “pantry” stayed stocked between the two sessions along with making sure the students were safe with all of their burners going. I will say this event had definitely intrigued me into wanting to learn more about cooking!
No matter who the winner was, I congratulate all the students that made it to the finals! I know it was not an easy task and it was extraordinary to see how well they performed over the last few months. This was a great event that the Texas Beef Council puts on helping support the youth. I will definitely miss doing this next year.