Ethan Hitchcock is earning a reputation as a mean cook.
He emerged from a field of eight young chefs Friday night at the Farmers Market to win the second annual Youth Grillin’ in McMinnville competition sponsored by McMinnville Parks and Recreations.
It’s the second straight year Hitchcock has grilled his way to the title.
“Mostly I just enjoy cooking,” said Ethan, a senior at Warren County High School. “I cook for myself around the house mainly just for fun.”
Competitors ages 12 to 18 were eligible to participate. Jake Mayes, 14, grilled his way to second place while Carl Parris, 14, finished third.
Grillin’ in McMinnville was divided into two rounds. In the first round, participants had 30 minutes to cook a chicken breast and a side of their choice.
Hitchcock made a chicken sandwich with cheese. His side was red potatoes with cheese and bacon.
Four of the eight grillers advanced to the second round where steak was on the menu. For this round, contestants had 45 minutes to prepare their meat and side.
“I mainly seasoned the steak with garlic powder, salt and pepper,” said Ethan, who has never taken any type of culinary courses at WCHS. “I also made a jalapeno popper wrap as the side.”
His food was a hit with the six judges with scoring based on creativity, appearance and, of course, taste.
McMinnville Parks and Recreation program coordinator Kyle Clyde wasn’t a judge but he did get a chance to sample the entries and said, “Everything I had was really good.”
Clyde added, “This event gives kids who don’t play sports like basketball an opportunity to participate and it encourages them to cook while promoting healthy food.”
The youth grilling contest was part of Smokin’ in McMinnville last year. With Civic Center construction canceling Smokin’ in McMinnville this year, the decision was made to continue to offer the youth cook-off at the Farmers Market.