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National Restaurant Association - ProStart: A dream grows in Delaware

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ProStart: A dream grows in Delaware

william penn prostart photo.jpg

When Kip Poole was hired to teach culinary arts at William Penn High School in Delaware, he suggested the school adopt the ProStart curriculum.

Poole was familiar with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's two-year culinary and hospitality management program from working for NRAEF Chairman Xavier Teixido's restaurants.

The school, with 2,000 students, is Delaware's largest secondary institution. It's also consider a poverty school because at least 75 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced school lunches and face other disadvantages.

When Poole was hired last year, the school had an outdated, underequipped home economics classroom. But it was building a state of the art "Top Chef" kitchen with 16 burners, Anti Griddles, sous vide technology and other innovative equipment.

When school opened last fall, 300 students enrolled in the two ProStart classes. Beginning students learned the basics of food preparation and sanitation, while second-year students studied more advanced culinary topics, such as creating recipes from food grown on the school's 4-acre farm.

All had the opportunity for on-the-job experience through the school restaurant, which operated two days a week, and catering jobs for meetings, receptions and parties.

"We're very, very hands-on," Poole says.

Next fall, the school's enrollment is expected to increase by at least 400 students, in part because of the ProStart program and the farm.

Over the summer, two of Poole's students will be working for Sodexo at the Chase Center, and three are interviewing for Teixido's restaurants "as we speak," Poole says.

Next fall, the restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner five days a week. It also will sell sous vide take-out meals on Friday nights.

Other changes in the works for next year include hiring a third teacher for the 400 ProStart students expected for next fall. And having a third teacher will allow Poole to focus more on restaurant management, his area of expertise.

And now that he's ServSafe-certified, Poole will be able to proctor the students' ServSafe food safety exams next year.

"I really think I've found my calling," he says. "I really love what I do."

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