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National Restaurant Association - California sweeps management, culinary competitions at National ProStart Invitational

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California sweeps management, culinary competitions at National ProStart Invitational


California Culinary and Magnt_ 005.jpg

California's Newport Harbor High School swept the management and culinary competitions Sunday at the National ProStart Invitational.


It was the first time the same state -- much less the same high school -- took first place in both categories since the National ProStart Invitational began 10 years ago. The members of the winning teams each won $5,000 in scholarships from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

"I'm so proud of our teams," said Kimberly Tessers, a sophomore on the Newport Harbor management team.

Luke Fischer, a senior on the culinary team, said he was astounded by the double win. "There were a lot of amazing teams out there," he said.

Among them were the management teams from New Mexico (second place), North Carolina (third), Michigan (fourth) and Florida (fifth), as well as the culinary teams from Kansas (second), Georgia (third), South Carolina (fourth) and Washington state (fifth).

The invitational drew 315 students from 38 states, plus Guam and Puerto Rico. In addition to California, 10 other states fielded culinary and management teams from the same schools.

Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association and NRAEF, said the students' knowledge, skills and expertise were inspirational at the Sunday night awards gala.

"This is a tremendous achievement," she said. "We have in this room top talent." 

The Newport Harbor teams attributed their success to their teacher, Janet Dukes, and their mentors, Emiliano Nino and Joshua Ponce (culinary), and Nanette McWhertor (management). Dukes received $3,500 in professional development scholarships to attend the NRAEF's Summer Institutes for teachers or for hands-on work experience.

"They helped keep us focused, develop amazing recipes and gave all their time," Fischer said.

"Besides working hard, we had the best help in the world, the best mentor," said Eliza Stubbings, a sophomore on the management team.

Overall, the NRAEF awarded $1.1 million in scholarships to the five winning teams in each category. Additionally, several culinary schools and colleges offered scholarships to the top three teams in each category.

Kellyn Perham, a junior on the management team, called the competition "really challenging." But she said she felt more confident after she and her two teammates completed the critical thinking question- and answer-session after presenting their hypothetical restaurant concept to judges.

Other members of the Newport Harbor's culinary team were Jessena Hernandez, Kelly Hackette, Jazmin Eck and alternate Marcus McGee.

Members of the other winning teams were:

• Cloudcroft High School, New Mexico: Maggie Bertrand, Shelby Manford, Jorden Scott, Kelley Stewart.
• Watauga High School, North Carolina: Justin Byrum, Emily Haas, Michael Haynes.
• Plymouth-Canton Educational Park, Michigan: Brianna Dobson, LeSaesha Pollard, Kristina Kapedani.
• Eastside High School, Florida: Melissa Gray, Arthur McArthur, Alexandria Mihelic.

• Olathe District Schools, Kansas: Elizabeth Huston, Matt McIntyre, Brandon Ramirez, Erica Tatham, Kylie Michaels.
• South Forsyth High School, Georgia: Darian Grooms, Mia Kosko, Giovanni Ray, Marin Wuma, Marco Cutino.
• Wando High School, South Carolina: Alexandra Jenkins, Sam Parris, Gavin Perry, Jillian Reilly, Mary Lassiter.
• Puyallup High School, Washington: Taylor Thompson, Amanda Bradeen, Casey Halifax, Rachel Shaffer, Nick Fox.

The National ProStart Invitational has grown from 100 students from 19 states since 2002.

"The bar keeps getting higher," Sweeney said. "Those of you here this evening are testament to having reached that bar."

 Watch video from the event on the ProStart YouTube channel.




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