Monday, March 13, 2017

High schoolers take home high awards in 16th Annual ProStart Invitational


My inbox has been full of good food and good news this past week, so I've had a lot to share. I've spent a couple recent Saturdays at our local high school taking cooking classes in their culinary arts classrooms along with some students - and I've been blown away by what they're learning and by the outstanding leadership of the professional chef that teaches them. I love seeing the culinary leaders of our future be passionate about food and proud of all their learning. So, when I saw this press release I had to share. Best of luck to all these talented young culinarians!


ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS SHINED AT 16TH ANNUAL PROSTART® INVITATIONAL



On Saturday, March 4, the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) welcomed nine culinary teams and seven management teams comprised of high school ProStart® students from across the state to compete in the 16th Annual Illinois ProStart® Invitational – a full day of Culinary and Restaurant Management competitions. Simeon Career Academy took first place in culinary while Elgin High School earned first in management.
 
The wins were milestones for both schools. In addition to winning the top culinary prize, Neal F. Simeon Career Academy—a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) location in the south-side Chatham neighborhood—won second in the management competition and the school’s advisor, Loretta Johnson, was awarded the ProStart Lifetime Achievement Award. During her tenure, her students have earned over one million dollars in scholarships, however this is the first year that Simeon Career Academy has placed first in the culinary competition.
 
Additionally, Elgin High School secured the spot as the reigning management champs with this year’s win, presenting a compelling idea for a not-for-profit restaurant concept. During last year’s ProStart Invitational and Elgin’s first year competing at the event, both the management and culinary teams won first place.
 
The event was hosted by the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, presented by Title Sponsor SYSCO - Chicago and was held at McCormick Place (2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Lakeside Building). The Invitational also included a College Fair & Expo in the SYSCO Lounge featuring admissions representatives from post-secondary culinary programs providing the students the opportunity to learn about their offerings. Host sponsor, SAVOR Chicago at McCormick Place, also provided a SAVOR Demo Stage that featured chefs from McCormick Place and Kendall College to teach techniques and engage students and guests.

“Our ProStart students work diligently throughout the year to prepare for this competition, and we’re incredibly proud of their accomplishments,” said Ann Leider, Executive Director of the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “It’s monumental that this year marked the first Chicago Public Schools win.  The ProStart program has a significant impact on our city’s young adults and expands boundaries and opens doors for many.”

The top ranking teams included:
 
Culinary Competition
1st place: Neal F. Simeon Career Academy
2nd place: Buffalo Grove High School
3rd place: Oswego High School
 
Management Competition
1st place: Elgin High School
2nd place: Neal F. Simeon Career Academy
3rd place: Woodruff Career and Technical Center
 
Students placing first through third from each competition were awarded prizes and scholarships to pursue post-secondary education in foodservice and restaurant management. Both Elgin High School and Simeon Career Academy will represent Illinois at the National ProStart Invitational held in Charleston, South Carolina April 28-30, 2017, where they will compete against teams from 48 states.
 
Over 40 industry professionals and representatives from post-secondary schools judged both competitions. Represented among these industry leaders were executive chefs, corporate chefs, chef instructors and hospitality professionals from a variety of industry sectors. 
 
Participating students prepared months in advance to compete. To hone their culinary and hospitality management knowledge, Chicago Public Schools teams had the opportunity to work with mentor chefs provided through partner businesses and restaurants.

“The Invitational allows hard working students from around the state to showcase the skills they’ve honed throughout the year,” said Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association.  “These driven students represent the next generation of industry leaders in Illinois, and we are incredibly thrilled to have them represent the state at this year’s national competition.”

About ProStart®
ProStart® is a national school-to-careers program that prepares high school students for careers in foodservice and hospitality management.  ProStart® in Illinois is administered by the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to over 4,000 students at 62 schools in the Chicagoland area.  Students have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials and articulated credits for college while in high school.  The Foundation provides work readiness training and connects students with industry professionals through job shadowing and internships to hone help students their skills in the foodservice industry.
 
The ProStart® program is also offered in 48 states encompassing almost 120,000 high school students in more than 1,700 high schools. For more information, visit www.nraef.org.
 
About the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) dedicated to building the Illinois hospitality workforce through career exploration, workforce development programs and scholarships.  ProStart® is a national school-to-careers program that prepares high school students for careers in foodservice and hospitality management.  ProStart® in Illinois is administered by the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to over 4,000 students at 62 schools in the Chicagoland area.  Students have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials and articulated credits for college while in high school.  The Foundation provides work readiness training and connects students with industry professionals through job shadowing and internships to help hone their skills in the foodservice industry.  The ProStart® program is also offered in all 50 states encompassing almost 120,000 high school students in more than 1,700 high schools. For more information, visit www.nraef.org.
 
About the Illinois Restaurant Association
Founded in 1914, the Illinois Restaurant Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, educating and improving the restaurant industry in Illinois.  The IRA owns and produces Chicago Gourmet – the annual food and wine festival held in Millennium Park that unites hundreds of restaurants, chefs and beverage experts for a weekend filled with food and drink tastings, entertainment, cooking demonstrations, book signings, interactive seminars and more.  The Association is a proud host of the James Beard Foundation Awards, which will be held in Chicago through 2021 and celebrates excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and culinary education throughout the country.  For more information about the Illinois Restaurant Association, visit www.illinoisrestaurants.org.

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