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National Restaurant Association - ProStart alumni: From student to role model

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ProStart alumni: From student to role model

ryan meliker 3.jpg

As captain of his ProStart culinary team, Ryan Meliker didn't pay much attention to judges with clipboards and timers hovering around him, his teammates and competitors.

"I was 100 percent focused on the food," says Meliker, a 2011 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (right). "I wouldn't have cared if the President was staring at me."

Last month, he was one of those judges. He managed to take a day off from his job as a line cook at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., to volunteer at the Maryland ProStart Invitational.

Meliker is one of several former ProStart students who remain committed to National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's program, which prepares high school students for culinary and hospitality careers. Some work in the industry and volunteer as mentors or judges, while others coordinate the ProStart programs for state restaurant association educational foundations.

ryan meliker student 2.jpg

Crystal Rivera (second from right), one of Meliker's 2007 teammates from the Howard County Applications and Research Lab in Ellicott City, Md., also was a judge at this year's Maryland ProStart Invitational.

Jessica Doerffel, a member of the Colorado team that placed third at the first National ProStart Invitational, will be at a management judge at this year's national competition in Baltimore.

"ProSJessicaDoerffel crop.jpgtart inspires me to lend my knowledge and skills -- as I'm still growing -- to help other people grow as well," says Meliker (second from left, above).

Doerffel, assistant food and beverage director, Elway's at the Ritz-Carlton, Denver, also mentors a ProStart student, donates to the NRAEF scholarship fund and is a member of the Colorado Restaurant Association Education Foundation Board of Directors.

"Everything has come full circle for me," she says.

See Doerffel -- and future industry stars -- in action April 27 through 29 in Baltimore at the National ProStart Invitational.

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