How Mystery Basket Competitions Will Make You a Better Chef

Whether you’re working diligently toward your chef certification or celebrating 30 years as a certified chef, you never stop bettering yourself or your dishes.

Mystery basket competitions are a great way to get out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself because, as every good chef knows, the learning never stops.

Mystery Basket Competitions Challenge You to Take Calculated Risks & Be Flexible.

Mystery basket cooking competitions are one of the primary ways we challenge our student chefs here at the University of Tennessee Culinary & Catering Program. We use them to teach our students how to be flexible and think on their feet. In a mystery basket competition, there are no recipes and the ingredients are not only a surprise, they often don’t look like they could possibly go together.

Mystery Basket Competitions Will Demonstrate What You’ve Mastered & Where You Need to Grow

We also use mystery basket competitions to evaluate the readiness of our students before a special catering event. The winner receives the privilege of designing and executing the event’s menu as the executive student chef. Chef Tom Carella, one of our graduates from the Spring 2017 session, led our first Laurel’s Echo Luncheon after besting his classmates in the kitchen with a French-themed mystery basket competition where he prepared a delicious chicken breast fricassee.

Mystery Basket Competitions Will Allow You to Build Confidence & Collaborate with Other Chefs

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) often sponsors mystery basket competitions where chefs who have completed or are working toward their ACF certification may sharpen their skills and see how they stack up against other local chefs. For chefs who are on their way to becoming ACF certified, participation in mystery basket competitions may count toward continuing education hours. Learn more about other ACF sponsored events or take a look at this calendar for a list of upcoming cooking competitions in your area.

Although mystery basket competitions are inherently “mysterious,” there are a few strategies you can use to stay a step ahead of your colleagues. Continue reading as Chef Greg Eisele reveals how to take the mystery out of the basket.

Interested in learning more about our 12-week culinary and catering program? Register for a free information session online or by contacting Pam Quick at 865-974-3181 or