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National Restaurant Association - ProStart offers head start

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ProStart offers head start

Donovan Jones has loved to cook since he's been 10 years old. When he entered high school, he found out he could take cooking classes through Stamford (Conn.) High School's ProStart program.

connecticut-culinary.jpgIn two years, the high school junior learned about sanitation, knife skill and how to run a restaurant, as well as cooking techniques. "I learned everything thing I need to be a successful chef," Donovan says.

The program also allowed him to participate twice on the school's culinary team. This year, his team placed first in the state competition, which allowed the students to compete at the National ProStart Invitational. Because the program allows him only to compete twice, Donovan plans to return next year to help mentor his school's team.

Donovan is among the 350 students who competed April 19 through 21 at the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore. The culinary team from Guam and management team from Wisconsin took home the top honors. Throughout the weekend, students sized up the competition, taking in ideas for creativity, presentation and technique.

The best part, says Donovan: "Seeing that I'm not the only one who loves this."

georgia-management.jpgLike Donovan, the management team from Marietta (Ga.) High School was thinking about ideas for next year. Students Sarah Bernknopf, Sarah Dickerson and Victoria Johnson presented a concept called "BOwL'D." Their restaurant would serve bold food in a bowl, including sandwiches layered in a bowl.

Johnson, who originally was interested in culinary, said: "It was cool designing a restaurant and coming up with a concept."

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's ProStart program allows students to be creative, Dickerson, says. "You can do what you love and show that you love it."

"Even if you don't go into the restaurant industry, you learn about creating a business and get an understanding of the working of a business," says teammate Bernknopf.

new-mexico-prostart.jpgSergio Morales, a 17-year-member of the New Mexico culinary team, said his ProStart experience will college on college and job applications. He and teammate Olivia Urena said the program helped them improve their cooking skills and work together as a a team.

"We had such good communication with each other," Urena says.

Next year's National ProStart Invitational is in Minneapolis. See pictures of this year's event here.

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