Okatie Elementary School fourth-grader Parker Star has proven to be a star indeed – in the kitchen.

Parker recently won Beaufort County School District’s 2020 Sodexo Future Chef Competition. His scratch-made Harvest Muffins, made of zucchini and sweet potato, were a hit with the judges.

The event took place Feb. 17 at the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence. Parker competed against 14 other finalists, who prepared their dishes in the school’s commercial kitchen before presenting them to a panel of six judges.

The dishes were scored on originality, taste, healthy aspects and kid-friendliness. The recipe category for this year’s competition was “Reimagining Your Favorite School Lunch.”

Parker decided to revamp a zucchini-and-sweet-potato muffin recipe his mother had made in the past. He said he altered the recipe by cutting the sugar in half, adding more cinnamon, zucchini and sweet potato, leaving out the nuts and baking the muffins just a tad bit longer. Despite the ingredients listed, Parker said the muffins taste like cinnamon spice.

Parker’s first-place title came with a winner’s basket filled with cookware, kitchen utensils, cutting boards, mixing bowls, a personalized Future Chef apron and a Fitbit.

“It was very fun that you get to spend time and get to know the lunch ladies in your school,” Parker said. “I really think it’s fun and easy to make my muffins, but the hard part is getting all the water out of the zucchini.”

Parker will make another batch of his muffins to take to the March 17 school board meeting.

He is now in the running for Sodexo’s national competition. The company will announce the Top 40 nationwide finalists around mid-April, the top five around the beginning of May and the national winner around May 15, according to Jim Foster, Beaufort County School District director of communications.

Hilton Head Island Elementary School fifth-grader Macy Benson was the first runner-up of this year’s competition, and Beaufort Elementary School fourth-grader Nigel Poulin was second runner-up, according to a school district press release.

“We are very proud of Parker’s win,” said Okatie Elementary School Principal Jamie Pinckney. “His courage to compete is inspirational … Parker excels at school, he is a friend to everyone, has a winning smile, and a great sense of humor.”

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.