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National Restaurant Association - 'You can go where ever you want in this industry'

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'You can go where ever you want in this industry'

 

Cape Henlopen High School students will spend the next month fine-tuning their culinary skills before the National ProStart Invitational.

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Cape Henlopen culinary team

"We have to know our strengths and weaknesses," says junior Nathan Griffith, a member of the winning culinary team at  the first Delware ProStart Invitational. The Lewis, Del., school will join William Penn High School in Wilmington, which won the management competition, as the state's representatives at the National ProStart Invitational, April 19 through 21, in Baltimore.

"Our teacher pushed us to the limit and told us to expect the worst," said Mariela Quintana, a member William Penn's winning management team. "We were ready."

Six schools participated in the competition, a component of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's ProStart program. They were competiting for thousands of dollars in scholarships from at least six culinary schools. Delaware began offering the two-year curriculum in its high schools last year. Overall, 1,500 students from 11 schools participate in the Delaware ProStart program.

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William Penn management team

Nationally, about 4,000 high school students participate in 43 state-level culinary and management competitions. The winning teams proceed to the National ProStart Invitational, where they compete for about $1.4 million in scholarships.

"You can go where ever you want in this industry," Xavier Teixido, immediate past chairman of the NRAEF and a former NRA chairman, told the Delaware students. Teixido, who hosted the event at his flagship restaurant, Harry's Savoy Grill, said the event was a great learning experience for the students, educators and judges. "Next year, some of these students will say, 'I can't wait to do this again.' "

For restaurant owners, the ProStart competitions are opportunities to look for future employees with teamwork skill and a love of the craft and profession, Teixido says.

"Look at the that young man handling his knives, the way he puts them away with respect, and the way his team mates are cleaning up," he says. "This is the star of the professionalism they're building."

In addition to technical skills, students say ProStart gives them a heads up in other career-building characteristics, such as team work, leadership and communication skills.

"You need that anywhere," says Tiara Duffy, 17, a member of Cape Henlopen's management team.

The students have been practicing for several months, rehearsing their management presentations, anticipating judges questions or honing knife cuts, food safey practices and cooking techniques.

"It's life-changing," says Kevin Castro, a member of William Penn's winning management team. The high school junior says he wants to major in culinary and hospitality management at Johnson & Wales University and eventually open his open restaurant.

"You guys rocked today," said Carrie Leishman, president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association. "You should be very proud of yourselves. Welcome to a fantastic ride."

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