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National Restaurant Association - Summer means supplier-side education for culinary student

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Summer means supplier-side education for culinary student

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As a high school student, Eric Purple explored the culinary and management aspects of the food industry. Now, at 19, he’s taking on the supplier side.

Purple, a student at Secchia Institute for Culinary Education in Grand Rapids, Mich., is spending the summer building sales for Vita Coco, a company that supplies coconut water from Brazil to retailers.

“I’m their mega intern,” says Purple, who’s responsible for setting up accounts in Louisiana, Massachusetts and Alabama. “When Vita Coco kicks off in Michigan, they want me to lead the start-up team.”

Purple says he agreed to lead the team, but he declined to take fall semester off. Because he ultimately wants to work in the restaurant industry, he says he wants to complete his culinary education in two years. Then he plans to pursue a second major in sales management.

“I’m more into culinary, but I’m highly determined to do it all,” he says.

The super sales intern attributes his success to ProStart, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s two-year high culinary and hospitality management curriculum.

As a high school junior, Purple competed on the ProStart culinary team. His senior year, he was invited to join the management team, too. At first, he hesitated because he would have to give a presentation.

But ProStart built up his confidence, and he says he’s no longer afraid of public speaking or presentations.

“I was the shyest kid,” he says. “ProStart gave me the people skills I needed.”

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