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National Restaurant Association - ProStart champs visit nation’s capital

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ProStart champs visit nation’s capital

DC ProStart kids.jpg

The winners of this year's National ProStart Invitational experienced a whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C. recently, seeing the city's many historical sites, visiting with members of Congress and a popular celebrity chef, who calls the nation's capital home.

Members of the champion ProStart teams from Olathe Public Schools in Olathe, Kan., and Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club, Texas, toured Washington, D.C., June 24-27 during the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation-sponsored trip.

Stops along the way included a visit with Mike Isabella, chef-owner of Graffiato and Bandolero restaurants and a finalist during season six of Bravo TV's Top Chef competition, meetings with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas at the U.S. Capitol building; and a private tour of various national monuments, including the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, guided by members of the Department of the Interior.

The culinary students also got to taste the food at some of Washington's well-known restaurants: Old Ebbit Grill, Oyamel and fast-casual burger joint Good Stuff Eatery.

The trip was a memorable one for the two champion teams, but better than that, they said, was winning this year's ProStart Invitational event.

I have wanted this since the 7th grade," said Trenton Shenk, a junior at Byron Nelson High School, the winner of this year's ProStart restaurant management competition. "Doing this has really helped me to reach my goals of learning the industry and being a part of the food and beverage world."

Shenk, who wants to study restaurant and hotel management at the University of Houston or Oklahoma State when he graduates from high school next year, said winning the ProStart competition and the scholarship prize will ease the financial burden that college might have cost him and his family.

"This means I don't have to worry so much about school," he said. "That helps a lot."

Erika Carsella, a graduating high-school senior from Olathe Public Schools, said being on this year's winning culinary arts team has opened academic and professional doors for her that hadn't existed previously.

"I am the first and only person in my family to graduate [from high school] and go to college," she said. "I was in the program for only one year, but I always knew what a tremendous program it was. Now I'm a national champion and going to pursue [my degree] at the New England Culinary Arts Institute," in Monpelier, Vt.

Carsella said her ultimate goal is to become the chef-owner of her own restaurant one day, "not so much for the fame and glory of it, but to know that I could do what I thought I couldn't."

This year, more than 350 students participated in the National ProStart Invitational. The students competed for more than $1.3 million in academic scholarships.

Pictured, top right: The winners of this year's National ProStart Invitational on their visit to Washington, D.C.

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