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National Restaurant Association - Your next best hires are from 10 schools

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Your next best hires are from 10 schools

Seven hundred hours of practice helped the Kansas culinary team clinch the National ProStart Invitational.

“We cooked our hearts out,” team captain Melinda Hurdy said. “We nailed it.”

Olathe Public Schools, which represented Kansas, finished first in the National ProStart Invitational’s culinary competition. The team prepared pan-seared scallops, pork tenderloin, micro green salad and a dessert on two butane burners in 60 minutes.

Wando High School of South Carolina won the management competition with a food truck concept.

More than 400 students from 89 teams competed for scholarships from the National Restaurant Association, sponsor companies and leading culinary institutions. About $1 million was at stake.

Several judges observed that the teams get better and better every year, said Greg Beachey, who leads the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart program. “Where do we go from here?”

Judges were particularly impressed with the professionalism of all the management teams, Beachey said. On the culinary side, Olathe and second-place South Forsyth High School of Cumming, Ga., were “ridiculously close.”

“They did everything well,” Beachey said. “Kansas made no mistakes.”

Like Olathe and Wando, many teams are repeat competitors. Olathe has placed among the top five schools seven times, Wando; five times.

“We put our heart and soul into it,” Wando captain Anna Ware said. “We could run [the food truck] tomorrow if we had the money.”

But a few newcomers stood out – and made a name for themselves.

One of them was the fourth-place management team: New Caney High School. At the Texas ProStart Invitational, New Caney displaced last year’s national champ, Rockwall High School, represented Texas years in a row. “We knew when we won state that we had some big shoes to fill,” Brandon Mata, 17, said.

This year’s competition was bittersweet for this year’s Ohio culinary team, which finished third. At the beginning of the school year, the students lost a former classmate who helped lead Polaris Career Center’s management team to a fourth-place finish in last year’s National ProStart Invitational.

The night before she was to leave for college, Renee Ondrejech was killed when a semitrailer rear-ended her car on the highway. The previous day, she had come to Polaris to say goodbye to her former classmates.

This weekend, they honored her by embroidering her name on their chef’s coat collars, as well as the dates of her birth and death. And they believe she was looking out for them on the competition floor.

Before handing out the awards, NRAEF Executive Vice President Rob Gifford acknowledged the challenges many students overcame to compete, including the loss of loved ones, personal hardships and doubts.

“Some of you have been here before and worked harder than ever in order to get to come back. Others of you went into your state competitions as perhaps unheralded teams, and through your hard work and effort conquered the reigning state champions.

“But one thing is clear about all of you: You have my great admiration – and that of the restaurant industry – for the courage, the faith, the effort and the skill that propelled you all the way here to the National ProStart Invitational. You are all champions.”

The winning teams are:

1. Wando High School, Mount Pleasant, S.C.
2. San Diego High School, Calif.
3. Standley Lake High School, Westminster, Colo.
4. New Caney High School, New Caney, Texas
5. Plymouth Canton Educational Park, Canton, Mich.

1.Olathe North High School, Olathe, Kan.
2. South Forsyth High School, Cumming, Ga.
3. Polaris Career Center, Middleburg Heights, Ohio
4. Anderson Career and Technology Center, Williamston, S.C.
5. Simon Sanchez High School, Guam


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