After placing fourth at the Texas Association Family Career and Community Leaders of America Culinary Arts Competition, EHS senior Canyon Edwards hopes to have a brief run as a professional chef this summer, before leaving to study at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts School in Austin.

Edwards believes his quick thinking exhibited at the competition will be an asset to potential employers this summer.

“I freaked out the first 30 minutes of the competition,” Edwards said. “I got in my own head and I didn’t know what to do … It got me fourth still. It makes me feel good, especially because of last year. I got first in regionals this year and fourth in state. Last year, I got fifth at regionals and did not place at state. This was my redemption year.”

With the competition sponsored by the Texas Beef Association, contestants expected the meal to decide the state champion to be a T-bone, fillet mignon or some other high-price cut. Instead, each contestant’s mandatory ingredients included a carrot and ground beef.

“In past years, we made cuts of steak, different parts of meat but we never got ground beef before,” Edwards said. “It was not something we practiced with either. You could see the look on all of the competitors’ faces when they pulled out ground beef. They just looked like they wanted to say ‘What am I going to do with this?’”

Edwards’ dish of a spicy beef patty with savory rice on a bed of romaine lettuce earned him fourth place. Edwards said his passion for cooking came from his mother, Christy Edwards, who he said instilled the value of a clean home and a warm oven.

“I fell in love with cooking,” Edwards said. “I always saw my mom cooking and food brings a smile to everyone’s face and I love making people smile. As soon as I could see over the counter, I started cooking. By fifth-grade, I was cooking whole dinners throughout the week.”

Edwards hopes to open his own restaurant and model it off the Diamond R Store and Cafe in Zephyr. While some aspiring chefs envision their restaurant’s name in neon lights, mentally noting every detail down to the tablecloth, Edwards keeps his goals grounded. Instead of valet parking, complex recipes and all of the other accouterments of a five-star dining experience, Edwards wants his future patrons to come in hungry, go home full and have a smile on his or her face throughout the entire experience.

“[Diamond R] where people bring their whole family, have a good meal and go home full,” Edwards said. “People come from out of town just to go to Diamond R … I didn’t grow up with a bunch of money. A lot of the people who go to those competitions, like I did, want all of these big fancy restaurants. I have stepped in fancy restaurants once or twice in my life and I wasn’t too impressed. I want something everyone can afford.”

While Edwards credited the EHS culinary program for giving him the tools to be successful in competition, Courtney Brandstetter – the program’s advisor – credits Edwards for inspiring future generations of EHS culinary artists. 

“I have a student who said ‘Next year, I want to do that,”’ Brandstetter said. “At the regional level, we go up against 5A schools and, at the state level, we go up against all schools … It represents the whole state of Texas. We have Allen High School, which is amazing. Their culinary (program) has commercial kitchens and a professional restaurant in their school that they operate for teachers. For him to come from a small school and to beat students out at those high schools is just incredible.”