The crème de le crème of the restaurant and foodservice industry gathered on the Monterey Peninsula in California at the 20th Annual Ted J. Balestreri Leadership Classic from March 7-10 in support of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's (NRAEF) ProStart  program.
More than $150,000 was raised for the two-year, career-building program that blends classroom learning with mentored work experience to teach high school students the management and culinary skills needed for a career in the restaurant and foodservice industry.
The funds raised will help build and strengthen educational opportunities for more than 90,000 students in the NRAEF’s ProStart and scholarship programs nationwide.
Among the restaurant executives in attendance were: Scott Bergren, CEO of Pizza Hut, Inc.; Sally Smith, President & CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings; Jay Trungale, CEO of Perkins & Marie Callender's, LLC; Cameron Mitchell, President of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Carin Stutz, CEO and President of Cosi, Inc. Special guests included Herm Edwards, Former NFL Coach and current ESPN Analyst, and Ed Marinaro, former NFL player and star of Hill Street Blues.
“For 20 years, the restaurant industry has been gathering in Pebble Beach to golf and give back at the Ted J. Balestreri Leadership Classic. We thank all the industry leaders – especially Ted himself – for their generosity,” says Lynette McKee, executive director of the NRAEF.
“Their support is instrumental in developing the future talent, through programs like ProStart, that the industry needs to remain fruitful and prosperous.”
In addition to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities on exclusive courses, the event also featured an auction dinner hosted by the Monterey Wine Educational Foundation.
Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense of the United States, spoke at the Monterey Wine & Lifestyle Auction about his personal connection to the restaurant industry. His parents owned a restaurant in Monterey, where he got his first job experience, like one third of all Americans.
He also connected restaurants to the wider well-being. “National security depends on a strong military, but also on strong diplomacy and on a strong economy,” Panetta says.
“You make a great contribution to the economy, so you make a strong contribution to national security."
Throughout the event, ProStart students from nearby Pacific Grove High School and Rancho Cielo put their skills on display and to the test when they assisted in the kitchen for the Monterey Wine & Lifestyle Auction dinner, and worked side-by-side with staff members from the Inn at Spanish Bay.
The 2012 men’s and ladies’ winners with overall low-gross scores are:
· David Stutz, Vince Balestreri and Bill Barry
· Melissa Lowe, Lori Walrack and Karen Marriott
The 2012 men’s and ladies’ winners with overall low-net scores are:
· Richard Cregar, Jack Butorac and Joe Taylor
· Julie Flik, Jackie Trujillo and Barb Butorac
First-place winners of the team scramble competition at Spyglass Hill Golf Course are Parker Evans and Bob Schmidt.
Kent Walrack, President & CEO of Lyons Magnus, hit a hole in one on #14 at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Sponsors of this year’s Ted J. Balestreri Leadership Classic included The Coca-Cola Company, Ecolab, Trinchero Family Estates, American Express, ARAMARK, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, International Franchise Association, Lyons Magnus, PepsiCo Foodservice, Sysco Corporation, Ignite Restaurant Group, Republic Services Inc., Diageo, Nestle Waters North America, and Nation’s Restaurant News. Trinchero, an Eagle Level Sponsor, donated a stunning, commemorative, exquisitely carved wine box as an auction item at the MWEF Auction Dinner.
View photos from the Ted J. Balestreri Leadership Classic here: http://dmtimaging.com/2012/leadershipclassic/ .
The NRAEF is seeking additional support for ProStart and the Scholarship Program. To learn more about these programs or to make a contribution, visit www.nraef.org 
By bringing industry and the classroom together, ProStart gives 90,000 students nationwide a platform to discover new interests and talents and opens doors for fulfilling careers.
From culinary techniques to management skills, ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-world educational opportunities and builds practical skills and a foundation that will last a lifetime. With national and local support from industry members, educators, the NRAEF and state restaurant associations, ProStart reaches 1,700 schools nationwide.
As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) enhances the restaurant industry's service to the public through education, community engagement, and promotion of career opportunities.