For the past 13 years, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) has hosted an annual ProStart Student Competition. This year, March 25-26, 2014, 23 teams from across the state will convene for the first time at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center to compete in the Louisiana Seafood ProStart Student Invitational. More exciting is that the top three teams in each competition will have more than $1.2 million in scholarship opportunities to the top Louisiana and nationwide culinary institutions.
“What is evident is the demand by leading culinary institutions to recruit Louisiana ProStart students for their programs,” said LRA President/CEO Stan Harris. “The amount of scholarship dollars the LRAEF obtains for our students rivals those secured by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation for its National ProStart Invitational winners.”
Administered by the LRAEF, ProStart is a two-year comprehensive culinary management course for juniors and seniors in high school with two primary outcomes: to prepare students for higher education and to train students to go directly to work in Louisiana’s foodservice industry.
“There are so many rewarding career possibilities for these young people participating in ProStart,” said LRAEF Chair Helen LeBourgeois. “In the next decade, our industry in Louisiana will add more than 17,000 new positions.”
The competition showcases the culinary and academic talents of high school junior and senior ProStart students and features two primary components: the Culinary Competition and the Management Competition.
During the Culinary Competition, Tuesday, March 25 from 10:45-5 p.m., teams will demonstrate their creative abilities through the presentation of a three-course, gourmet meal consisting of: a soup, salad or appetizer; a protein such as meat, fish or fowl, vegetable and starch; and a cold or flambé dessert. All teams’ menus must feature at least one type of Louisiana seafood. Twenty-four judges from the foodservice industry and post-secondary educational institutions will observe and rate their performance during the competition.
“The judges are always impressed by the degree of difficulty the students undertake when preparing and presenting their dishes,” said LeBourgeois. “Some of them judge ProStart competitions in other states and consistently compliment our students on how well they season their dishes.”
Teams participating in the Management Competition, Wednesday, March 26 from 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., will demonstrate their knowledge of the restaurant and foodservice industry by developing a restaurant proposal, delivering a verbal presentation and applying critical thinking skills to challenges managers face in day-to-day operations. Their performance will be observed and rated by 15 judges from leading colleges and universities and industry professionals.
“Louisiana teams do extremely well at Nationals, particularly the management teams,” added LeBourgeois. “Several years ago, Louisiana took top place at the National ProStart Invitational in the Management Competition and consistently places in the top 5.”
To compete at this level for high schools students is a testament to the ProStart curriculum and the dedication of the teachers to preparation them for the challenge. To effectively compete requires teamwork, planning, communication, measurement, and writing and presentation skills.
“Of all the events the LRA hosts, the ProStart Competition is by far my favorite to attend,” said Harris. “It is exciting to see these young people test their skills and knowledge of culinary and management techniques, while showing their commitment to teamwork and their future.”
The ProStart Competition and the work of the LRAEF are made possible by the nine LRA Chapters and their annual contributions, as well as its Annual Partners. This year’s event sponsors include: Louisiana Seafood, Acme Oyster House, Auto-Chlor Services, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, Performance Foodservice Caro, Atmos Energy, Louisiana Culinary Institute, Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, Raising Cane’s, Louisiana Gas Association, Whole Foods, Entergy, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s “Sea of Hope,” Centerplate, Coca-Cola, Community Coffee, Custom Apparel, Ecolab, Freeman Decorating, Generations Hall and the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.
“This annual event allows us to showcase the commitment of these young people, who are training to become the future leaders of Louisiana’s restaurant industry,” added Harris. “The LRA encourages its members to hire ProStart students and to further the LRAEF’s mission, the LRA State Board has dedicated a portion of its excess surplus annually to the Scholarship Fund.”