Monday, February 3, 2014

Students get cookin' as ProStart competition season heats up

The run-up to this year’s National ProStart Invitational in May has officially begun, with high-school students from around the country prepping to compete in the culinary and management competitions, where winners will secure educational scholarships and pursue careers in the restaurant industry, officials of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation said.

The Louisiana Seafood ProStart Student Invitational is scheduled for March 25-26, 2014 at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.  ProStart teams placing in the top three spots for the culinary and management competitions will receive nearly $1 million in scholarships from the nation’s and Louisiana’s most notable programs.

“Nearly 200 Louisiana ProStart students will participate this year,” said Alice Glenn, LRA Education Foundation Executive Director. “For the second year, ProStart students will be required to feature at least one of six of the Louisiana seafood species—oysters, crab, shrimp, finfish, alligator and crawfish—in either their appetizer or entrée in the culinary competition.”

Management competition contenders are required to include Louisiana seafood in the restaurant concept menu.

The winning Louisiana team in culinary and management will go on to vie for a spot at the national event in Minneapolis, May 3-5, as well as scholarships from renowned schools, including Johnson & Wales University, Le Cordon Bleu and Sullivan University.

The ProStart program, created by the NRAEF in partnership with the restaurant industry, is administered and managed by 48 participating state restaurant associations around the United States, as well as programs in Guam and Department of Defense (DOD) high schools on U.S. military bases. It helps introduce students to potential career opportunities in foodservice and features a specialized curriculum – Foundations of Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts – that was developed with the help of industry professionals.

According to Rob Gifford, the NRAEF’s executive vice president of philanthropic initiatives, total restaurant and foodservice employment is projected to grow by 11 percent over the next 10 years, and the Educational Foundation along with its state association partners “are committed to ensuring the development of highly trained and professional talent pool through scholarships and educational programs.

“Thanks to the dedication and leadership of our state partners, ProStart is part of a national movement to empower students with the training and opportunities they need to achieve fulfilling, lifelong careers,” he said.

The culinary phase of the National ProStart Invitational will highlight the creative abilities of each team as they prepare a three-course meal in 60 minutes using two butane burners and no access to running water or electricity. Teams will be evaluated on taste, teamwork, safety and sanitation, among other skills, while the management teams will develop a business proposal for an original restaurant concept and present it to a panel of industry judges, who will challenge them to address the issues restaurant managers face on a daily basis. This year’s event is expected to attract more than 900 attendees, including industry and academic leaders, NRAEF board members, state restaurant association representatives, ProStart educators, and the contestants’ friends and family members.

Students at this year’s state competitions will participate in 46 culinary cook-offs and 40 management demonstrations. The state competitions will run through April.

For more information about ProStart, visit or Facebook.

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