SYLMAR, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Glendale high school's Shaunt Mesrkhani started cooking at seven, and it shows in his technique.
"My dream, first of all, is go to a CIA in New York, maybe start my own restaurant hopefully one day," said Mesrkhani.
At the C-CAP culinary competition at LA Mission College, top Los Angeles chefs scrutinized students' every move.
"We teach our students the basics: cutting skills, cooking skills. Show me your timing. Give me your love through your food and your cooking," said chef instructor Jessie Sanchez.
Sanchez says the competition has been held at LA Mission College for the last 20 years.
And good chefs are always in demand. "I'm looking for cooks who want to stick around and learn and work with me," said Jared Levy of Eveleigh.
"This is a tough business. This is all about passion and hard work and you have to love to cook," said Aaron Robbins, owner of SOCA and Boneyard Grill.
All of the kids participating in C-CAP will get some sort of scholarship, but what they're really after is the top prize: a $126,000 scholarship to Johnson and Wales.
"It changes the trajectory of their lives. it gives them life skills. I've got students scattered across the nation in Philadelphia, in Vermont, in Denver. All throughout Southern California. Over a half a million dollars in scholarships in just six years," said Stefani Kelly, a chef instructor at Carson High School
Unfortunately, Kelly says Carson High School is considering putting their culinary program on hold.
"I'm most concerned for my juniors who have been with me since freshman year, not knowing if they have to transfer schools," she said.
Competition heats up for C-CAP high school culinary students