The West Virginia Office of Hospitality Education and Training in the West Virginia Department of Education has announced the success of the West Virginia’s ProStart culinary and management team at the eighth annual National ProStart Invitational, held April 24- 26, 2009 in San Diego, California. The team was mentored by Thomas Grant, culinary instructor at Carver Career Center; the teacher is Joy Dalton of Putnam Career and Technical Center.   

Among the field of more than 300 student competitors from 39 states, territories and districts, the team performed with outstanding results in both the culinary and the management competitions.  The team from Putnam County represented West Virginia in both events as the unprecedented winners of both the culinary and management events in the Hospitality Cup held in early March at Stonewall Resort. 

"These talented students were put to the test during the intense, three-day competition and rose to the challenge.  All of the competing students earned our respect through the talent, passion and professionalism they displayed throughout the competition," said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO, National Restaurant Association.  "These future leaders will be enormous assets to the industry as they advance in their education and careers."  Judges for the culinary event remarked that the West Virginia students were “a delight to watch work”.   

More than 750 people were on hand to witness these future stars of the industry in action, including competitors, educators, mentors, state restaurant association representatives, judges, sponsors, industry representatives and friends and family.  The National Restaurant Association's National ProStart Invitational showcased the talents of top ProStart students as they competed in the culinary and management competitions.  To qualify for the national competition, teams won first place in the state competitions held this year by WV HEAT.

In the culinary competition, teams prepared a starter, entrée and dessert within 60 minutes and were judged on categories including taste, presentation, safety, sanitation and teamwork. In the equally exciting management competition, the West Virginia team demonstrated knowledge of the restaurant and foodservice industry by competing in a case study – where competitors were tested on their communication skills and ability to apply their industry knowledge to practical situations – and in a question-and-answer "game show"-style event. 

West Virginia’s hospitality industry has generously supported the team before and during the competition. Major supporters include the Charleston Marriott, Best Food, Inc. and US Foodservice, GEF, PAC Uniforms, Fine Line Embroidery, Wellington’s of Scarlet Oaks, Cashin Recyclables Inc., and the West Virginia American Culinary Federation. “The restaurant and foodservice  industry’s support of our students is a key factor in the success of the ProStart program in West Virginia. These industry supporters model knowledge, skill, dedication and teamwork for students.” said Donna Wilkes, a coordinator for the West Virginia Office of Hospitality Education and Training (WV HEAT).  “It’s these qualities that build a solid foundation for a bright career in the restaurant and foodservice industry.”    

Guy Fieri, the popular Food Network host of four shows - Guy Off the Hook, Guy's Big Bite, Ultimate Recipe Showdown, and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives – helped present the awards to the winning teams at the Awards Ceremony on Sunday evening.  An ardent supporter of ProStart, Fieri is a three-term President of the Restaurant Association of the Redwood Empire and serves on the Board of Directors for the Educational Foundation of the California Restaurant Association. Fieri was on hand during the weekend’s events to film for an upcoming showcase of the National ProStart Invitational. 

Nationwide, 78,000 students in 47 states, territories and districts are served by ProStart, a two-year curriculum supported by the National Restaurant Association and state restaurant associations across the United States that blends classroom learning with mentored work experience to teach high school students the management and culinary skills needed for a career in the restaurant and foodservice industry.  When students meet academic standards, complete a checklist of competencies, and work at least 400 hours in the industry, they are awarded the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement that signifies they are well qualified to enter the industry workforce.  The career-building program is managed nationally by National Restaurant Association Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Restaurant Association.  For more information on the ProStart program and National ProStart Invitational, please visit www.prostart.restaurant.org. 

For more information on West Virginia’s ProStart program, contact Donna Wilkes at 304-558-6321.