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National Restaurant Association - ProStart scholarship winner hopes to open his own restaurant

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ProStart scholarship winner hopes to open his own restaurant


Ben Dadourian developed an passion for the restaurant industry through his older brother and sister. He saw how much they enjoyed cooking for others and their culinary classes in high school and college.

When his brother opened a catering company, Dadourian helped out. He loved unloading equipment and food, setting up tables, and especially watching guests' react to the food.

So it was no surprise that he joined the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's ProStart program as a high school junior.

"I would recommend it to anybody who wants to go into the restaurant industry, or even those who don't know what they want to do," says Dadourian, a freshman at Howard County (Md.) Community College.

The ProStart program, which turned 15 this year, helps students who aspire to culinary and hospitality management careers through scholarships and hands-on experience. More than 90,000 students participate nationwide.

Dadourian, the Maryland ProStart Student of 2012, is among the outstanding students and educators who received ProStart scholarships to continue their culinary and hospitality management education. NRAEF awarded about $3 million in scholarships and ProStart support this year.

Thanks to the scholarship and his ProStart experience, Dadorian believes he has a leg up on other aspiring restaurateurs. His classes provided real-world experience through the Maryland ProStart Invitational, community banquets and other opportunities. He also worked at Golden Corral while in school.

Two or three times a year, the students would organize intergenerational banquets for about 100 senior citizens. They planned the menu, priced ingredients, prepared the food and served the guests.

"It wasn't just cooking for a few people," Dadourian says. "It was more like cooking in a restaurant or commercial kitchen."

As a high school senior, Dadourian was the leader of his school's culinary team at the at the Maryland ProStart Invitational. His restaurant management coursework came in handy for writing and pricing recipes, and the experience helped him develop leadership and teamworking skills, he says. 

For students, ProStart is a good opportunity to see what working in the restaurant industry is really like. "A lot of people don't realize you spend 60 hours a week and all of your weekends working," he says.

For the restaurant industry, ProStart helps develop a higher calibre entry-level employee, Dadourian says. Applicants are more experienced and have better customer service skills after participating in ProStart, so employers don't have to spend as much time and money training them, he says.

"It was a great decision to be involved in ProStart," says Dadourian, who one day wants to open his own restaurant.


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