Hahnville High student’s winning recipe will be featured on high school menus 

Jayden Champagne’s winning recipe will soon be featured on the menus of Hahnville and Destrehan high schools after taking first in a special cook-off event – a competition Champagne won, as he noted, somewhat by accident.   

“Honestly, I messed it up,” said the Hahnville senior. “I really messed the whole thing up.” 

Champagne cooked birria tacos for the competition between Satellite Center culinary students, with the winner’s dish to later be featured on the high school menu.   

“You’ve got to mix up the tomatoes and put it all into the broth … I didn’t make the broth correctly. I made it backwards,” Champagne said. “I was supposed to let it sit and do what I was supposed to do. The whole time I was basically trying to tweak the sauce so it could taste edible … it just wouldn’t come out right.” 

Ultimately, Champagne did find the right mix – to the event judges’ enjoyment, as they declared Champagne victorious.   

“I did not expect that at all. When they said the third-place winner, I thought that was for first place,” Champagne said. “When they got to me and I realized, wow, I’m in first not third – unexpected, but thank you for sure.” 

The cook-off takes place annually. According to Pat Phelan, a longtime chef and culinary teacher with St. Charles Parish Public Schools, the child nutrition department of the school district provides a different food item that will be the base for each student to work off of when preparing their dish. The dish must be feasible to offer on a school menu, so price and other factors come into play. This year, the item was roasted turkey.   

Champagne, Phelan said, cooks with a bit of flair.   

“He likes to do his own thing,” Phelan said. “Most team members tend to rely on sticking to the recipe, and that is how you learn, but he’s focused on making his own thing up – he’s a creative thinker and a worker. It’s how someone can become really good.” 

Champagne said he began cooking when he was 12. Before that, he said his mother had often asked him to try, but that it seemed like too much of a hassle.   

“But I started trying stuff out … we always used to have this (item) for this meal, but not the rest, or that for that meal but not the rest. I always ended up throwing things together and it ended up pretty good a couple of times,” Champagne said. “So, it was like, ‘Hey, I think I can cook.’” 

His first-ever dish was homemade lasagna.   

“Everything was from scratch,” he said. “To me, it wasn’t especially that good, but I was just 12 at the time and it was decent, so I wanted to keep going.” 

He notes his specialty, meanwhile, is fried chicken. 

The trial and error of it all appealed to him then and still does today. Making the dish is one thing, but making small tweaks each time to perfect the taste is perhaps the element he enjoys most.   

“You try and change the smallest things to see how much it makes a difference,” Champagne said.   

Often, it can make a pretty big difference – and as Champagne often finds, a delicious result. 


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