The 2016 Laois Rotary Young Chef Mark Dunphy, with Andrew Cremin, Rotary Club, and chef judges Andreas Runas and Imelda Devitt.
Four secondary school students will cook up a storm this Thursday January 19 for the chance to become Laois Rotary Young Chef of 2017.
All boys and all from Portlaoise, the four are Kamil Kowerczuk and Vitalijs Sidorovs, both from Transition year in Portlaoise College, and from St Mary's CBS, 5th years Conor Whelan, 17, and Szymon Struk, 16.
The Portlaoise college entrants have drawn on their roots for inspiration in their dishes, planning meals from Poland and Russia including Apple Soup and a special pancake, while the CBS boys are keeping their menus under cover until the event.
The chosen winner will go on to represent their county in the regional final, and possibly the Irish final.
Last year's Laois winner did just that.
2016 was the first time for Portlaoise Rotary Club to host a county competition for the All Ireland event, won by Mark Dunphy from Mountmellick Community School.
After some useful tuition from local chefs, he made it through the regional event, to the final six competing in a tense final in Dublin for the national title.
Mark's advice to this year's entrants is to go for it.
"If you enjoy cooking, embrace the challenge, it will be worth it. Once you have a passion for it, you don't notice the tough work ethic required and you become immersed in the experience. It allowed me to gain self-confidence and to take pride in my work as well as being open to trying new challenges," said Mark, now in 5th year.
"This competition was piloted last year and was so successful, we are running it again as part of our Youth Development Programme in the Rotary Club Portlaoise," said Fintan Monahan, Club President.
"This continues to be a very exciting project for us when one considers the reputation for food craft in Laois and the importance of encouraging and developing creativity in young people. Cooking amongst young people is a growing interest and a valuable life skill so we want to identify and bring out that passion for cooking," Mr Monahan said.
The cooking competition begins at 6pm, in the home economic rooms at St Mary's CBS Portlaoise, with precisely two hours to produce a healthy meal under budget, with food hygiene, organisation and planning, and their ability to work under stress, all scrutinised by the judges.
The Laois sponsors are Batonis Restaurant, Emo and Seasons Restaurant, Portlaoise, whose head chefs will be judging the students on the night.