Photo Credit: Nevada Restaurant Association

On Saturday, February 8th, 2020, the Nevada Restaurant Association hosted its 2020 ProStart State Competition at the UNLV-Hospitality Hall. At this annual competition, teams of students compete in two major categories, Culinary and Management. Teams competing in the Culinary group must create a three-course menu, which they cook onsite for judges to taste. The groups in the Management category must create a new restaurant concept that includes menu planning, pricing and restaurant layout. The first-place winners at these two categories will earn their spot to compete against other schools nationwide at the 2020 National ProStart event on May 8, 2020, held at Washington D.C. 

​​ProStart is a nationwide, two-year high school program that reaches nearly 150,000 students in more than 1,900 high schools across 50 states, Guam and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Europe and the Pacific. In Nevada, 40 schools are enrolled in the Nevada
ProStart Program.

From culinary techniques to management skills, ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-life experience opportunities and builds practical skills and a foundation that will last a lifetime. “I’m grateful for the ProStart program for my students because they go on working all over the world in the food industry,” said Ann Taylor, ProStart program teacher at Coronado High School. The program is 350 hours of instruction and 400 hours of industry work experience. After passing the exams for Year 1, Year 2 and completing the competencies, students receive a certificate from the National Restaurant Association and an opportunity for scholarships. Students learn topics such as food safety, knife cuts, basic cooking techniques, baking, menu design, basic accounting, costing and restaurant management. Many of the students take their learned experience in both Culinary and Management to pursue their education in the food industry. “I think ProStart is very important because it has pushed me into the person I am today, and pushed me into going to the culinary industry,” says Bettina Bautista, former ProStart student 2016-2018, who is currently a student at UNLV Hospitality and working as a cake decorator at 85 Bakery in Las Vegas. 

This year, there were a total of eight schools, with ten teams competing for Culinary and Management categories, including 23 individual students competing in categories such as Edible Centerpieces, Buttercream Cake and Tier Cake design. Volunteers of experienced chefs, restaurateurs and operators carefully evaluated the students on their presentation, work-skills, organization, cooking procedures, knife skills and degree of difficulty. Second-year management judge, Corey Cutler, Managing Partner at Fleming’s Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and Nevada Restaurant Association Board Member, said, “I think it’s amazing we get these kids together and see the talent they have, and competing for a scholarship to help with their education.” Students not only compete for the top spot for ProStart National but earn scholarships used toward furthering their education. 

This year Coronado High School of Henderson, NV, took first place in the Culinary category, wowing judges with their creation of a delectable three-course meal of Fresh Arugula Salad, Braised Short Ribs, and Panna Cotta dessert. First place for Management was awarded to Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology of Reno, NV, who impressed the Management judges with their unique restaurant creation titled “Union Oak.” 

On Tuesday, February 18, the ProStart students from Coronado High School were recognized at the Women’s Hospitality Initiative launch event, where they received a $4,000 donation from US Foods and #MAPP, which will go toward their travel expenses to the National ProStart Competition. 

The Nevada Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is always seeking mentors and support for the students. If you’re interested in becoming more involved, please contact info@nvrestaurants.com.