photos courtesy Nevada Restaurant Association

The Nevada Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation hosted the Nevada ProStart Invitational on February 2 at The Art Institute of Las Vegas. More than 70 students from 8 high schools across the state competed, while 20 prominent figures from the Las Vegas restaurant community served as judges for the event, which provides scholarships for outstanding culinary and management students.  

Throughout the competition students utilized the skills they learned while in the ProStart culinary training course. The two-year program teaches food safety, basic food techniques, baking, cake decorating, knife cuts, menu design, restaurant management, basic accounting, food costing and more.  

Top honors for the culinary portion of the competition went to Coronado High School and the student team of Bettina Bautista, Ethan Cooper, Haley Montalbano, Lily Russell and Jonathan DesJardins. The menu featured Gourmet Mushroom Tortellini; followed by Pan Seared Duck Breast accompanied by brown sugar glazed sweet potato, rainbow carrots, blackberry sauce and fresh basil oil; and a Dark Chocolate Mousse Bombe complemented by a raspberry gelee, walnut crumble, chocolate tuile and served with whipped cream and mint. 

The Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology’s team, whose members include Griffin C. Gustafson, Ruth Gomez, Esperanza Lopez and Leslie Gudino, placed first in the restaurant management category. The team’s restaurant concept, “Cherry Bomb Café and Bakery,” focused on providing the community with affordable and delicious food in a simple and casual welcoming atmosphere.

Winners in the individual competition categories included: Esperanza Lopez from The Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology for edible centerpiece; Claudia Gomez from West Prep Academy for cake decorating–buttercream; and Lauryn Sabers from Robert McQueen High School for cake decorating–tiered.

Jay Rathmann from BJ’s Nevada Barbeque was named Mentor of the Year. He reflected on the students’ culinary prowess and how hard they worked leading up to the competition. 

Bettina Bautista of Coronado High School received the coveted Student of The Year award, as well as a $1,000 scholarship to the school of her choice donated from past Nevada Restaurant Association Chairman, John Hinchliffe.

The winners from the culinary and management  categories will be moving on to represent Nevada in the national ProStart Invitational to be held Friday, April 27-Sunday, April 29, 2018 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, Rhode Island, where more than one million dollars in scholarship money will be distributed amongst the winners.