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Teens cooking passion pays off
0416SchoolChef
Amanda Lawson won the bronze medal and $5,000 in scholarship money in the recent Best Teen Chef Local Cook-Off in Atlanta.

Amanda Lawson was watching Food Network a few years ago when she saw the competition "The Best Teen Chef."

Lawson told her mother one day she would compete - and last weekend she had her chance.

The aspiring chef took on 11 other finalists from Georgia high schools in The Art Institute's Best Teen Chef Local Cook-Off in Atlanta.

But first, Lawson had to deal with a cooking injury - she had sliced open her left ring finger with a knife just hours before the competition.

"On Friday night I was practicing and I slit my finger," said Lawson, a South Forsyth High School senior and a semifinalist in the regional cook-off. "I got four stitches and three shots ... but I won third place. At one point (during the competition) I just thought, ‘I can't do this anymore,' but I knew I got this far and I had to keep going."

Even after the injury, Lawson was able to win the bronze medal and $5,000 in scholarship money.

Gold, silver and bronze medal winners all were awarded scholarships to The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Atlanta.

Savannah's Jonathan Miller won the gold medal and a $15,000 scholarship to the Art Institute, and Alexandra Smith of College Park won the silver medal and a $10,000 scholarship.

For the first time, judges also awarded a fourth place, with a scholarship of $3,000, to Mark Fletcher of Bonaire.

To become a semifinalist in the cook-off, Lawson wrote an essay and created a recipe for the judges. Miller, the gold medal winner of the competition, won a chance to compete against the winners from 30 other Art Institutes in a national cook-off on May 17 in Las Vegas.

During the competition, Lawson created shrimp cocktail, rice pilaf, sauteed broccoli and sauteed chicken for the judges.

"I was pretty nervous," she said. "There was a floor judge and they looked at sanitation, our organization and you had to have nice cuts. Then there was a tasting at the end and I actually burnt the rice.

"It was so emotional and when they called me up for third place I couldn't believe it. My mom and sister were crying ... it was a great day."

Lawson's twin sister Lauren won the Passion for Fashion scholarship from the Art Institute earlier this year and also will be attending the school in the fall.

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