NEW YORK - The kitchen at the International Culinary Center in SoHo was buzzing with fresh ingredients and talent on Saturday as 20 high school students from across the five boroughs were vying for first place in a cooking competition for aspiring young chefs. .

Their mission: master fine French cuisine.

They prepared for the day for the whole year, working on perfecting everything from crepes with chocolate sauce to cooking chicken and potatoes. It was part of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program, which is a national non-profit that offers high school students culinary training, places them with mentor chefs, and helps with employment opportunities.

Each participating city has its own competition for scholarships to attend culinary school. Saturday was New York’s finale.

“I got so many skills out of the competition,” said Gabriella Perez, one of the students participating in the competition. “This program probably changed my life and career."

Richard Grausman, a world-renowned chef, founded the program in 1990. He says the city is ripe with raw talent, who just a need a little training and guidance.

“It’s thrilling every year because I see potential and I’ve known over the years what that potential does,” Grausman said. “We have executive chefs, restaurant owners.”

With the support of experienced chefs, who judge the competition based on taste and technique, the aspiring chefs learn invaluable tricks of the trade.

“To me, taste is more important than presentation: that the chicken be moist, that the sauce have depth of flavor, that the crepe be thin and tender, that the pastry cream be cooked,” said Sara Moulton, a celebrity chef and one of the judges for the competition.

“You have to do something which you love doing. You’ve got to do something that you like to do all the time. Something you can give your best input into,” said Keyianna Green, another chef in training.

Every student who made it to the final competition on Saturday will win a scholarship. But they’ll wait until June to know just how much financial support they’ve won and what culinary schools they’ll be able to attend.