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Thousands of ProStart students from Alaska to Florida to Maine are sharpening their knives, presentation skills and business plans at state competitions with an eye on competing at the nation’s high school championship event focused on restaurant management and culinary arts, the National ProStart Invitational.
Student teams are currently going head-to-head in 44 state ProStart competitions. ProStart is the nation’s premier culinary arts and restaurant management program, utilized in more than 2,000 high schools in 48 states, Guam, and on U.S. military bases, reaching nearly 100,000 secondary students annually. Administered by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), ProStart prepares young people to pursue additional studies or enter a rewarding career in the foodservice sector.
“ProStart competitions are a higher-stakes student version of ‘Top Chef,’ with both a culinary and a business management component. The prizes open doors to college scholarships and visibility with recruiters from the nation’s top restaurant and hospitality college programs,” says Rob Gifford, executive vice president of strategic operations and philanthropy for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “Few programs are as successful as ProStart in giving high school students the skill, poise and experience necessary to access long term, rewarding careers in the restaurant industry.”
The culinary competition highlights the creative abilities of each team as they prepare a three-course meal in 60 minutes, using only two butane burners with no access to running water or electricity. Teams are evaluated on taste, teamwork, safety, and sanitation, among other skills. Management teams develop a business proposal for an original restaurant concept and present it to a panel of industry judges. Then, they’ll be further tested to solve the types of challenges restaurant managers face on a daily basis.
At the national event in Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 3–5, more than 350 elite ProStart students from 44 states and territories will contend for a share scholarships from leading culinary programs that this year could total $1 million. Nearly 1,000 attendees, including industry and academic leaders, NRAEF board members, state restaurant association representatives, ProStart educators, friends, and family members will be there cheering on students from across the U.S.
Many post-secondary schools in the nation recognize ProStart’s Certificate of Achievement, which is awarded to students who complete both levels of the program and at least 400 hours of work experience, and reward them with scholarships and advanced placement.