Over the weekend, 12 high school culinary arts and 12 restaurant management team finalists gathered in San Antonio at St. Philip’s College for the final competition of the Texas ProStart Invitational. The Texas teams who came out on top were teams from Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy in Rockwall for the culinary portion of the competition and Ben Barber High School in Mansfield for restaurant management.
The two winning teams advance to represent Texas in the National ProStart Invitational, May 8-10 in Washington, D.C. At this invitational, they will compete against nearly 400 students from ProStart teams throughout the country.
Texas is home to the nation’s largest state ProStart competition. Now in its 10th year, the competition hosted more than 340 students from 75 high schools and 103 teams, via two intense regional competitions and one state final competition over the course of three months. In the Texas ProStart program there are currently 255 Texas high schools participating, with more than 20,000 students.
Teams participating in the culinary competition were required to demonstrate their creative abilities through the preparation of a three-course meal in only 60 minutes. They were also judged on knife skills, safety and sanitation.
Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy is no stranger to ProStart Nationals – they first went in 2013, securing the championship title for restaurant management. That was followed by a trip to Nationals in 2018 in the culinary category, under the leadership of Chef Cody Hayes, placing in second.
“For me, my proudest moment was when another instructor approached me after the awards ceremony, congratulated me, and then thanked me. I was a bit puzzled as to why he was thanking me, and he said, ‘Thank you for making all of us instructors raise the bar year after year; you make us work harder for our kids.’ That is the best compliment an educator could get! His words embody what the ProStart program and the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation stand for- we are all a family and strive to build the future of our industry,” Chef Hayes said.
For the management side, teams must develop and present a business proposal for a new restaurant concept that includes a defined concept, supporting menu and marketing plan. Teams prepare a comprehensive written proposal and they are evaluated on their critical thinking skills by reacting to potential management challenges.
Texas ProStart Student Maddie Demien said, "When they called our name for first place, I realized that all of the time that we spend cooking and practicing instead of hanging out with friends was so worth it."
The National ProStart Invitational is produced by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (TRAEF). Only students enrolled in high school culinary arts programs utilizing the ProStart program and curriculum are eligible to compete.
At Nationals, the top five teams from the culinary and management competitions are awarded generous educational scholarships to help further their careers in the restaurant and foodservice industry. In 2017, more than $1 million in scholarships was awarded to students by the NRAEF and leading academic institutions.
2019 Texas ProStart State Finals Results
1st - Dr. Gene Burton College and Career Academy
1st - Ben Barber High School
The 2019 Texas ProStart Invitational was sponsored by TRAEF partners - Texas Beef Council (Exclusive), Ecolab (Diamond), Ben E. Keith (Platinum), Auto-Chlor (Gold), BJ’s Restaurants, Coca-Cola, Texas Mutual, United Healthcare, Les Dames d’Escoffier (Silver), El Centro College, Nicholls State University and BMI (Bronze).