The Future of the Restaurant Industry Shines as Delaware and California Take Top Prizes at the 2024 National ProStart Invitational

Ninety-six high school teams vied to win national culinary and restaurant management honors in Baltimore

BALTIMORE, April 29, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The culinary team from the Caesar Rodney High School from Camden, Del., and restaurant management team from Orange County School of the Arts from Santa Ana, Calif., captured the championship titles Sunday evening in the 2024 National ProStart Invitational. Teams from 48 states battled in a weekend-long showdown that featured more than 400 students and a roster of top restaurant and foodservice industry judges. The National ProStart Invitational is the nation’s largest high school culinary and restaurant management contest. A fusion of “Chopped” and “Shark Tank,” it provides a platform for the students to compete for a share of scholarships totaling $200,000.

Hosted by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront on April 26-28, the National ProStart Invitational was a high stakes competition of the country’s best student culinary and restaurant management teams, each of whom earned the right to compete after winning their state-level competitions. Find the event media kit here.

The culinary teams prepared, plated, and presented a three-course dining menu without access to electricity or running water, and using just two butane burners. They were assessed by judges on several factors, including food safety and sanitation, costing, preparation, and plating/presentation. Simultaneously, 48 restaurant management teams presented and defended original restaurant concepts across hour-long interactive Q&A periods with a panel of restaurant and foodservice industry judges.

The Caesar Rodney High School culinary team created three menu-ready recipes, including detailed cooking instructions, menu cost analysis, and then executed the dishes during the competition. Each dish was professionally plated and tasted as part of the competition. Their menu included Hand-Rolled Pork Dumplings, Pepper Crusted Steak Diane, and a Lemon Meringue Tart.

Orange County School of the Arts management team’s winning restaurant concept brought sports and breakfast together as a satisfying answer to chaotic schedules and unpredictable cravings. The restaurant, called Teddy’s, is a quick casual restaurant designed to be a community destination for people who want to enjoy breakfast while catching their favorite sports matchup. The students created a full business plan including budget, restaurant design, and marketing plans, and then pitched their proposals to industry professionals.

“It’s inspiring to watch these students put so much of their hearts and souls into this competition and to know that the grit that got them here will be what propels their careers,” said Michelle Korsmo, president & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “These competitors represent what’s possible when the courage and creativity of young leaders is supported by educational programs like ProStart.”

“This year’s national ProStart students are a window into the culinary excellence and creative restaurant concepts that will be part of our industry in the years to come,” said Rob Gifford, president of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “Thanks to thousands of ProStart educators in classrooms across the country, these students will leave high school equipped with skills to build a future career in our industry – or wherever their futures take them.”

Following are the top five teams in the culinary and restaurant management competitions.

Culinary Winners

  1. Caesar Rodney High School, Camden, Del.
  2. Herndon Career Center, Raytown, Mo.
  3. Anderson Career and Technology Center, Williamston, S.C.
  4. Ben Barber Innovation Academy, Mansfield, Texas
  5. Normandy High School, Parma, Ohio

Management Winners

  1. Orange County School of the Arts, Santa Ana, Calif.
  2. Wilbur Cross High School, New Haven, Conn.
  3. Elk River High School, Elk River, Minn.
  4. Wando High School, Mt Pleasant, S.C.
  5. Strawberry Crest High School, Dover, Fla.

In addition to the competition winners, Chef Timothy Beckenbaugh from Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology in Pleasant Gap, Pa., was recognized as the 2024 James H. Maynard Teacher of the Year. With support from Golden Corral, the award is part of the annual ProStart Educator of Excellence award program, which recognizes the country’s top educators who demonstrate classroom excellence and an unparalleled commitment to helping their students make the most of the program’s opportunities.

ProStart – the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s nationwide career and technical education program – has equipped more than 1 million high school students with career-ready culinary and restaurant management skills. More than an elective, the program is designed to equip students with restaurant-specific certifications and competencies, over 400 hours of practical work experience, and access to restaurant and hospitality apprenticeship and scholarship opportunities. Students complete the ProStart program ready to join a professional kitchen or advance to higher education. Today, the program reaches nearly 165,000 students at almost 1,850 schools.

The 2024 National ProStart Invitational was made possible by many donors and sponsors, including The Coca-Cola Company, DIRECTV FOR BUSINESS National Accounts, Ecolab, Golden Corral, and Nestlé Professional.

About ProStart®
ProStart®, a nationwide, two-year high school career and technical education program uniting the classroom and restaurant industry, reaches nearly 165,000 students at almost 1,850 high schools throughout all states, the District of Columbia and Guam. ProStart gives students a platform to discover and develop new interests and talents, while teaching employability skills like teamwork, professional behavior, time management and communication.

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF)
As the supporting philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF’s charitable mission includes enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development, and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to Attract, Empower, and Advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce. NRAEF programs include: ProStart® – a high-school career and technical education program; Restaurant Ready/HOPES – Partnering with community based organizations to provide people with skills training and job opportunities; Military – helping military servicemen and women transition their skills to restaurant and foodservice careers; Scholarships – financial assistance for students pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality degrees; and the Restaurant & Hospitality Leadership Center (RHLC) – accredited apprenticeship programs designed to build the careers of service professionals. For more information on the NRAEF, visit ChooseRestaurants.orgClick here for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s 2023 Annual Impact Report.  

Media Contact: Zef Vataj, [email protected]

SOURCE National Restaurant Association

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