A group of Lejeune High School students are cooking up big ideas and bringing the heat to their competition.

The LHS Culinary Team is bound for a national culinary competition following a third place finish in the management division at the state championships. The students were tasked with coming up with their own restaurant. That meant scheming blueprints, constructing a menu, figuring out cash flow and pitching their idea to a board of judges.

“My hope is that these kids grow their knowledge of this business in order to go out and make something of themselves in it,” said Shirley Bryan, culinary teacher at LHS. “This gives them a chance to explore and develop their passions. … We have kids go to culinary school and graduate.”

The students involved in the program found success at the state level by drawing from their lives as military children. Their restaurant, The Melting Pot 2 U, had a diverse menu.

“It was a team effort because we all had different perspectives and knew certain things others didn’t,” said Jameela Rod. “Some of us had seen certain things that we could bring to a restaurant environment.”

That perspective had a strong effect on judges.

“When they heard melting pot they thought it was a play on America,” Bryan said. “When they learned it was about what they had seen as military kids, and about military families coming together, you could see the judges light up.”

It was enough to qualify the students for the next step in the competition, something that has been a long time coming.

“It feels phenomenal,” said Tyler Petersen. “We have not been to that level in five years. When they announced us you should have seen the smile on Mrs. Bryan’s face.”

Bryan made specific mention of the parents who have helped the team find success.

“I call them my posse,” Bryan said. “These parents are there for us and it does not matter for what. If I need something from the commissary and can’t find a way out, they are willing to go out and get it for us. … I remember at the competition one of our parents saw his kid in action for the first time and was awed. They are proud of how talented their kids are.”

The team will head to Washington D.C. on May 8 to compete.