Holden Boulware, 16, Taylor Castillo, 17, and Blake Minshew, 17, from the left, have advanced to the National 4-H Food Challenge at the Texas State Fair in Dallas in October after winning second overall at state and first in their division. They also will have a chance to compete at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in Louisiana in August.

Three 4-H Club members in Angelina County have advanced to the National Food Challenge and the Great American Seafood Cook-Off after placing second overall and first in their division against 45 other teams at state.

Sixteen-year-old Holden Boulware, 17-year-old Blake Minshew and 17-year-old Taylor Castillo will compete in New Orleans against 4-H Club members from six different states in August. Then they will compete at the Texas State Fair in Dallas in October against 4-H Clubs from across the nation.

As far as the team knows, they are the first team from Angelina County to advance to nationals in the Food Challenge, and Blake said that is a crazy thought.

Taylor compared the Food Challenge competition to the show “Chopped.”

“You’re given a random set of ingredients and a slight clue, and then you have 40 minutes to make whatever you want to make, whatever you think is going to be good,” he said.

The students also have to create a presentation and make sure the kitchen space is clean before time runs out. They said sometimes the ingredients are surprising like when they were given the grain bulger, which none of them had heard of before.

Each student had a job and a specialty, they said. Blake used to work at Brookshire Brothers, so Taylor and Holden said he is the produce guy. They also have to carefully distribute tasks for the presentation.

“I’ll start off by introducing us,” Blake said. “I’ll tell them what our dish is, and I’ll talk about what you need every day — two cups of fruit, two and a half cups of vegetables, three cups of dairy, five and a half ounces of protein and six ounces of grain and at least 60 minutes of activity a day.”

“I talk about the prep — what we did and how those ingredients work together, how the flavors balance each other out,” Taylor said.

“Once he does that, I have to explain each of those ingredients to them and the nutrients behind them — what it gives you, your daily values and what happens if you don’t get enough of those ingredients,” Holden said. “I wish I could just tell them you’d die if they didn’t, but sadly it’s not that easy.

“By state we had it down to an art,” Holden said.

The Great American Seafood Cook-Off is hosted by the Louisiana Seafood Marketing and Promotion Board. For this competition, the students have to decide on what dish they’re making before. They enlisted Tomé Catering’s Ashley Berry for assistance.

“It’s much less stressful, honestly,” Blake said. “We can pre-prepare rather than being on the spot.”

Blake said he really enjoys working together as a team with his friends. Holden said he grew up watching “The Food Network” nonstop.

“What got me interested in food and nutrition is that a lot of what people typically associate with 4-H is things like horses and cattle and stuff,” Taylor said. “I don’t do a whole lot of that because I live right in the middle of the city, so food nutrition peaked my interest.”

Being involved in the competition has given the students additional life skills like the ability to plan nutritious, budget-friendly meals and a chance to develop time management and public speaking skills.

County Extension Agents Joel Redus said this competition has become really popular in 4-H Club, probably because it is one of the few team competitions.

“It’s a lot more fun when you get to work with your buddies,” he said.

For more information about Angelina County 4-H, contact Redus or Ryan Merrel at the Angelina County Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office at 632-8239 or follow the Angelina County 4-H Facebook page.

Grace Juarez’s email address is grace.juarez@lufkindailynews.com.