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National Restaurant Association - Delaware ProStart students serve governor's ball

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Delaware ProStart students serve governor's ball

ProStart students were among the restaurants and catering companies that served guests at Delaware Gov. Jack Markell’s inaugural ball.

Six students from William Penn High School’s culinary and management teams prepared and served three dishes for 2,000 guests at Chase Center on the Wilmington Riverfront. Hosted by the Delaware Restaurant Association, the event featured food by the William Penn ProStart students, the Food Bank of Delaware's culinary program and 35 restaurants.

"Those William Penn ProStart students were the talk of the inaugural ball," says DRA President and CEO Carrie Leishman. "So many political leaders, restaurateurs and guests wanted to know who they were, It was a great opportunity to talk about ProStart and showcase the best of the best. We were really proud to have them there."

The ProStart team, along with several classmates, spent two weekends before the Jan. 15 event making pasta from scratch and other items, said instructor Kip Poole.

“We try to incorporate lessons with everything we do, and we’re currently on pasta,” he said.

The students made agnolotti pasta filled with butternut squash and bacon puree served with sage-pecan cream sauce. They also made sous vide pork tenderloin rubbed with black garlic chili powder and served with pomegranate and jalapeno salsa. A William Penn teacher with sustainable black-garlic farm supplied the ingredients for the rub.

One of the ProStart teachers, pastry chef Brianna Lyons, baked 5,000 macarons for the dessert. The students made three fillings: orange-marmalade cream, strawberry mint, and mocha. They made the fillings on-site with the Anti-Griddle.

Poole says he thinks the event will give his students a leg up this spring when they compete in the first Delaware ProStart Invitational.  The restaurant management interacted with guests, explaining the dishes, ingredients and culinary methods. For culinary students, the event gave them experience preparing large quantities of food, as well as interacting with guests while cooking.

“It was a great opportunity to act in front of a crowd,” Poole said. He says he hopes it will make them less nervous at the state competition.

Delaware’s two-year-old ProStart program has about eight schools. William Penn, the state’s second largest school, was one of the first three schools to participate in the program. The 2,000-student institution is considered a poverty school because at least 75 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced school lunches and face other disadvantages.

Last year, the school built a state-of-the-art "Top Chef" kitchen with 16 burners, Anti Griddles, sous vide technology and other innovative equipment. Its 400 ProStart students grow many of their ingredients on a 4-acre campus farm, and many work in the school restaurant, which also caters meetings, receptions and parties.


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