Vermillion team places second in ProStart Competition

Teams of students from Brookings High School took top honors at the third Annual South Dakota ProStart Competition, held at Mitchell Technical Institute on March 23. The students will travel to Overland Park, KS next month to participate in the National ProStart Invitational, sponsored by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

Along with the Brookings team, other winning individuals and teams included:

• A team from Vermillion High School received second place in both the culinary and management divisions of the state competition. Members of the team are Nichole Christensen, Molly LaCates, Megan Rernleitner, Sam Robinson, and alternate James Protzman. The Vermillion team is instructed by Ilene Lerseth, and Chef Mark Kneskern is their team mentor.

• A culinary team from Huron received the Judges Award in recognition of their team spirit, attitude, effort and enthusiasm: Shelby Bergman, Danielle Christensen, Lee Goos and Sara Harmon. The Huron students are instructed by Kathy Engst.

• Danielle Christensen of Huron High School won two individual awards for demonstrating the best knife skills and for chicken fabrication. The Knife Skills Award was sponsored by Chef Randy Doescher of Mitchell.

• Molly LaCates of Vermillion won the President's Award from South Dakota's Professional Chefs Chapter of the American Culinary Federation for leadership skills during the competition.  The award was presented by the organization's president, Chef Clark Braun of the Alpine Inn in Hill City.

Teams from Britton-Hecla, Brookings, Huron, Mitchell, Vermillion, Watertown and Webster participated in the ProStart Competition, which tested students on culinary and business management knowledge and skills. The teams were judged by chefs, hospitality industry professionals, and foodservice instructors and suppliers.

ProStart is a high school business management curriculum created by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Through the program, high school students learn business math, nutrition, workplace safety, cooking skills, customer service, cost planning, labor costs, inventory control, and other business basics. South Dakota is one of 47 states and territories which offer the ProStart curriculum to high schools.

At the competition, students are tested on the skills they have learned in class. The competition is composed of two main areas: culinary and management.  In the culinary competition, each team demonstrated their creative abilities through the preparation of a three course meal.  The teams are limited on the time they may spend on the meal preparation, and they had to follow strict rules on preparation and cleanup. The teams were judged on work skills, safety, sanitation, knife skills, presentation, menu, and product taste.

During the management portion of the competition, the teams demonstrated their business planning and communication skills by developing a plan for a restaurant, including the restaurant concept, facility design, staffing, menu, pricing and marketing. The plan was presented to a team of judges through a written plan, visual display and verbal presentation. The teams also demonstrated critical thinking skills by answering questions posed by the judges.

The ProStart Competition is a joint effort of the South Dakota Department of Education, the South Dakota Retailers Association, and the South Dakota ProStart Advisory Committee.

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