The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced the winners of its 12th annual National ProStart Invitational, which took place in Baltimore April 19–22.

More than 350 top ProStart students from 43 states, territories, and Department of Defense bases, competed for their share of $1.4 million in scholarships by demonstrating their mastery of restaurant leadership skills—culinary and management—in a fast-paced competition.

Simon Sanchez High School from Guam and Badger High School from Wisconsin were crowned winners in the culinary and management competitions, respectively, beating other ProStart high school teams from 41 states and territories to win first place. 

All of the teams at the National ProStart Invitational had earned spots to compete by winning their state competitions. NRAEF awarded scholarships to students from the top 10 winning teams.

“Seeing hundreds of students apply what they’ve learned during their two-year ProStart program not only is an inspiring experience, but also confirms our belief that there is a bright future ahead for the restaurant industry with this young talent at the helm,” says Denise Marie Fugo, chairman of the NRAEF. “We’re honored to recognize this year’s winners for their accomplishments, and to give them the opportunity to showcase their skills and passion at the national level.”

In the culinary competition, teams prepared a starter, entrée, and dessert within 60 minutes using only two butane burners, and were judged on categories including taste, knife skills, safety, sanitation, and teamwork.

The team from Simon Sanchez High School in Guam took home first place in the culinary competition. Technology Center of DuPage in Illinois earned second place honors, and Howard High School of Maryland came in third place. 

Fourth place honors were awarded to Olathe Public Schools in Kansas, and Oak Harbor High School of Washington took home fifth place.

In the management competition, teams developed an original restaurant concept and applied critical thinking skills to challenges restaurant managers face in day-to-day operations. 

Badger High School in Wisconsin took top honors above second place Sauk Rapids-Rice High School of Minnesota. 

The team from Bergen County Academies in New Jersey won third place. Fourth and fifth places were awarded to Brookings High School of South Dakota and Mark Twain High School in Missouri, respectively. 

Maneet Chauhan, James Beard award-winning celebrity chef and judge on Food Network’s hit show “Chopped,” was also on site to cheer on students as part of a national tour for her new book, Flavors of My World: A Culinary Tour Through 25 Countries, co-authored by Doug Singer.  

“Students were thrilled to have Chef Chauhan as our special guest at this year’s National ProStart Invitational,” says Rob Gifford, executive vice president of philanthropic initiatives for the NRAEF. “Having the opportunity to interact with her and receive insight and guidance was an extraordinary experience for students and provided additional motivation to achieve great things as they prepare to enter the restaurant industry.”

The National ProStart Invitational is the country’s premier high school competition focused on restaurant management and culinary arts. More than 900 attendees, including industry and academic leaders, NRAEF board members, state restaurant association representatives, ProStart educators, friends, and family members cheered on student competitors from across the U.S.

The ProStart program brings the industry and the classroom together to give 95,000 students nationwide a platform to discover new interests and talents, while opening doors to fulfilling careers.

With national and local support from industry members, educators, the NRAEF, and state restaurant associations, ProStart is taught in 1,700 schools.