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The Stars Were Out for ProStart’s Debut

Griffin Herrmann, a senior at Burnsville High, likes the competitive aspect of ProStart.

For many of the students participating in Hospitality Minnesota’s fundraiser for ProStart at the W Hotel November 5, it was the first time they donned their chef jackets in public. And while the high schoolers were clearly excited to be showing off their skills to the restaurant community, they handled the prep, presentation and describing their dishes with the aplomb of a veteran. 

The Stars of the Future event is a practice run for the national competition next year, and a treat for the 100 or so people who turned out on a cold Sunday evening to fill the cozy and dimly lit Living Room at the W. It’s also a fundraiser to help out with expenses for the teams that go on to compete at nationals. 

Bathed in pink light and near darkness that made taking pictures challenging for the proud ProStart teachers—and us—the students melded into teams that turned out small plates as varied as cauliflower steak to nutty pears to seared sea scallops, aptly named, “The Burning Sea.”

Eight schools and their chef mentors plated up dishes from their assigned categories. At a time when restaurants are hungry for trained workers, the ProStart program gives students the skills and training needed to launch a culinary career. The competitions offer students who may not want to play sports a venue for their competitive nature. 

Ming Bailey, a junior at Hopkins High School who was helping prepare the vegetarian offering, said right now cooking is a hobby; she’s a music student, but she could see doing something in hospitality. However, she added, she’s ambitious and “I want to make six figures.”

Another student, has already found employment at Burger Jones through his program. His ProStart team helped out at Bite of Burnsville, where he met Chef Ashley Eppert who ultimately hired him. Eppert now volunteers with the program as a chef mentor.

The students love working with a professional chef, said Julie Mundahl, the ProStart teacher at Buffalo High School. Their chef, Brent Preppernau works at Cargill, and is able to share both the creative and practical knowledge. 

For instance, Mundahl said, ask a teenager for an idea for a good appetizer and they’ll think more along the lines of chips and dip. “He (Preppernau) brings a different perspective,” she said, smiling. 

Walter Wittwen and Lesley Wyman
from Integrated Arts Academy.

What event would be complete
without complimentary wine?

A silent auction attracted generous
donors, with proceeds going to the
ProStart program, a collaboration
between the National Restaurant
Association and its local chapters and area high schools.


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