Photo courtesy NvRA

There are currently 207,200 restaurant and food service jobs in Nevada. Within 10 years the total can be expected to grow by 16.4 percent, approximately 34,000 jobs. About three in ten restaurant operators have job openings that are difficult to fill, reports the National Restaurant Association 2017 State of the Industry report. Educating our workforce will help close the gap for these operators.

The ProStart program, administered by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and state restaurant associations, is a two-year curriculum designed to teach high school students the skills needed for a career in the restaurant and food-service industry. This program was created by education and industry and workforce development is the cornerstone. When students meet academic standards, complete a checklist of competencies, and participate in at least 400 hours of a mentored work experience, they will receive the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement that signifies they are well qualified to enter the industry workforce.

“ProStart students belong to a very special group that we affectionately called ‘ProStart Nation,’” said Rob Gifford, Executive Vice President of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “Since we launched ProStart 17 years ago, we have graduated more than half-a-million students. We’re thrilled to see where this year’s competitors’ careers will take them as they set out and commit to the restaurant industry.”

ProStart students can provide a solution for the labor shortage many restaurateurs are experiencing in Nevada. “ProStart is critical to meet the growing needs of the restaurant industry. In Nevada we run 40 high school programs with more than 3,000 students enrolled,” states Katherine Jacobi, President & CEO of the NvRA.

Through the ProStart program, high school students learn about the culinary arts: flavor profiles, presentation, storage practices, nutrition, business math and the importance of workplace and food safety.

“Hospitality courses made me want to pursue a career in the restaurant industry, and my mentor made costing fun!” exclaimed AACT student, Griffin C. Gustafson. Griffin began his journey as a food expeditor at BJS Nevada BBQ Company and quickly moved up to prep cook. Not only is Griffin the manager of the school restaurant at The Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology, he is also on the ProStart Management Team and his team won the management part of our Nevada ProStart Competition earlier this year. 

Aspiring student chefs and restaurateurs from Coronado High School, Las Vegas and AACT, Reno traveled to the National ProStart Invitational in Providence, Rhode Island to slice, dice and plan their dream restaurants April 27-29, 2018. These two schools were the state winners of the Nevada ProStart Invitational, where they competed against more than 100 students from 13 high schools across the state. 

Ruth Gomez, representing the management team AACT, Reno had this advice for her fellow peers: “Work as a team. Communication is key. Be confident. Take advantage of the opportunities of meeting new people, especially those within the industry. And overall, enjoy and appreciate every single moment!” 

Coronado High School created an ambitious menu, 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 restaurant management from AACT, Reno presented “Cherry Bomb Café and Bakery,” focused on providing affordable and delicious food in a simple and casual welcoming atmosphere. The teams’ creative menu choices and jingle were pleasing to the judges. Both teams appreciated the opportunity to compete at the National ProStart Invitational and experienced immense growth not only as culinarians, but as professionals and look forward to future competitions.