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National Restaurant Association - Teamwork pays off for ProStart champs

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Teamwork pays off for ProStart champs

Winners of the National ProStart Invitational say teamwork might have made them stand out in the culinary and management competitions.

“We’re not a team anymore,” says Mac Daniel Dimla, captain of first-place culinary team from Guam. “We’re a family.”

“Teamwork is huge,” say Katheryn Besadesky and Victoria VanVleck of the first-place management team from Rockwall High School in Texas. “We’ve made lifelong friends,” adds Adrian Dahl. “That’s what we’ll take with us.”

Simon Sanchez High School from Guam is the first team to the National ProStart Invitational two years in a row. Dimla, who plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the fall, was the only student from last year’s winning team to compete this year. The others graduated last year, so this year’s team included junior Royzlyn Javier and sophomore Abigail Pineda.

In addition to team work, the team’s decision to stick with classic dishes probably helped with its winning performance, Dimla says.

“Guam did everything pretty well,” says Greg Beachey, who manages the ProStart program for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “That’s what it takes: consistency.”

Beachey says the quality of the culinary competitors increases each year, especially for teams in the middle of the pack. Their performance was closer to that of the top five teams than in previous years. Another good sign: “Nobody crashed and burned. Everybody had complete meals, and nobody was over more than two minutes. That never happens.”

Culinary teams have 60 minutes to prepare appetizers, entrees and dessert on just two butane burners. Judges evaluate them from the moment they check in their ingredients the day before the competition up until they serve the tasting judges.

The management competition quality also continues to improve since ProStart changed its format five years ago, Beachey says.

“The complexity of the concepts and the depth of knowledge gets greater and greater,” he says. “The schools are just getting it.”

For the management competition, teams develop a hypothetical restaurant concept based on pre-determined criteria. They have 10 minutes to present the concept to a panel of judges, who question them on pricing, marketing, staffing, design and other elements of their business plan. Another set of judges test their critical thinking skills by posing hypothetical challenges they might face as restaurateurs.

Before handing out awards, Rob Gifford, the NRAEF’s vice president of philanthropic initiatives, described all 300 students competitors as amazing.

“You are the future of this industry, and the future has never been brighter,” he said.

Each member of the Simon Sanchez and Rockwall teams received $6,000 in scholarships, including $5,000 from Coca-Cola and $1,000 from Burger King McLamore Foundation.

Scholarships also went to teams who placed second through fifth in the management and culinary competitions. In total, the NRAEF, corporate sponsors and culinary institutions awarded $3.75 million in scholarships.


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