NEW ORLEANS - Culinary students from high schools across the state are in Kenner this week competing for nearly $700,000 in scholarships.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation is hosting the 11th Annual Louisiana ProStart Student Competition to showcase culinary talent among high school juniors and seniors.
The two-day competition at the Pontchartrain Center involves 21 schools across Louisiana competing in two categories: Culinary and Management. The winner in each category will go on to the national competition in April, which will be held in Baltimore this year.
"Our teams do very well at nationals, said Wendy Waren of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. "Hammond High school has been the team that has represented Louisiana more than any other," Waren noted.
Carolyn Senac is a ProStart Instructor at Mandeville High School who has 11 students in her program this year. "These kids get a fantastic opportunity to work in the industry," she said, "ProStart certified kids get hired over other kids."
Teams placing in the top three in both the culinary and management competitions will receive scholarship funds from nine of the leading post-secondary culinary and hospitality programs in the country.
For the culinary competition teams prepare a three-course, gourmet meal. More than 40 judges from the food service industry, the Department of Health and Hospitals and post-secondary educational institutions rate their performances.
In the management competition teams present a restaurant proposal including the restaurant concept, choice for linens and tableware, number of employees and a marketing campaign.
"It's very impressive. It's really intense for high school," said Waren.
ProStart is a two-year culinary course for high school juniors and seniors meant to prepare students for higher education or train them to directly enter the industry.
Students are required to complete a 400-hour work internship providing hands-on training.
Schools participating in this year's ProStart Competition are: Abbeville High School, Bogalusa High School, Dutchtown High School, East St. John High School, Fontainebleau High School, Grace King High School, Hammond High School, John Ehret High School, Lakeshore High School, Livonia High School, Mandeville High School, N. Vermillion High School, Rayne High School, Salmen High School, Slidell High School, St. Charles Satellite Center, Sulphur High School, Thibodaux High School, WD Smith Career Center, Welsh High School and Woodlawn High School.