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ProStart Competition Sends Two Teams to Finals

The winning culinary team from Elk River High School and instructor, Monique Sabby, left.

The students from the 17 teams participating in the 13th annual Minnesota ProStart Invitational received a lot of feedback on their cooking and management skills over the course of the long day, but a memorable takeaway came from Bill Niemer, owner of That Cooking School, who told the students, “You’ll have a set of skills you can take anywhere in the world and get a job.”

Glen D’Amour, a culinary arts instructor at Duluth East High School, whose school wasn’t competing this year, used his time in front of the group to praise their talent, saying, “I don’t think I have any team that can beat any of you … but we could beat you at hockey.”

Former ProStart student Jame Leeder-Botnan, now a chef at McGarry’s Pub, recounted how in his senior year of high school, he was finally the captain of his ProStart team until he almost sliced off his thumb during the knife skills segment and had to go to the emergency room in an ambulance. 

The event, sponsored by Sysco Minnesota and the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation, decides which two high school ProStart  teams—one culinary and one management students—go on to the national competition in Washington, D.C., May 8-10.

A whole host of culinary professionals from the Twin Cities and elsewhere around the state served as judges, timers, tasters and the voice of experience. 

While the ballots were being tabulated, a few of the judges gathered at the front of the room and talked to the nervous students waiting to hear the verdict on their menus. Tom Kavanaugh from Sylvan Lake Resort, who served as emcee, summed up the industry when he thanked the chefs who helped out. “Chefs don’t work the greatest hours and yet they’re always willing to give up time for things like this,” he said. 

And then the winners were announced. Elk River High School took first place in both the culinary and management categories. Sauk Rapids-Rice High School was second in Management and Rogers High School was third. In the culinary competition, Hopkins High School was second and Pillager was third. 

Sade Berrouet of Park Center High School
won a set of Dexter knives for her knife skills and knowledge.

Pete Mihajlov of Parasole Restaurant
Holdings and a former chairman of MRA’s
education foundation board.


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