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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Judging Culinary Skills (ProStart)


Judging Culinary Skills

I have been fortunate, thus far, switching my life around from being an engineer to transitioning into being a chef.  One of those good fortunes has been that I was given an opportunity to judge a very particular culinary competition.  The cooks in this scenario will be the future leaders of kitchens throughout America and the world.

Judges getting ready for the competition
I’m talking about the culinary competition branch of the ProStart organization which is an off-shoot of the National Restaurant Association (NRA).  ProStart is a nationwide, two-year high school program that unites the classroom and industry to develop the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice leaders “NRA”.

Planning strategy
ProStart really is an unparalleled program that is industry driven which elevates some of the brightest talent within the foodservice business.  Through the combination of class room and “real-life” experience; the curriculum is designed for success from the beginning.

Time to cook!

His hat may be too big?
Part of that “real-world” experience is the competition format previously mentioned which is where I come in.  I spent a wonderful day observing, tasting and judging these high school culinarians and their talents cook everything from ceviche to rabbit and they all had a blast doing it not to mention I had blast just being there!

The kids had a lot of support from family and friends
First on the agenda, students had to prove they were proficient in menu writing and food costing then on to knife skills and lastly before cooking; they had to break down a chicken showing the least amount of waste possible.  The cooking portion is broken down into categories as well including: waste, speed, sanitation etc.  ProStart is rooted in the fundamentals found in any reputable culinary college that is accredited.  For high-schoolers to start out in this very structured atmosphere bodes well for their future success as well as for the industry itself.

Breaking down a chicken

A proud student!
Finally the tasting portion of the event takes place where I had a ton of fun experiencing Indiana’s talent-laden pool of young and future chefs.  I will admit there were some cold dishes and also some under-seasoned/over-seasoned offerings but all-in-all the bulk of the food was pretty fantastic stuff.  I’m proud to have had a part in shaping a young mind if only by imparting a few words judging their food.  Hopefully, the advice will hit home and be helpful down the road.

Listening to the judges grade their dish
In the end, Area 30 Career Center from Greencastle won the event and will be representing the great state of Indiana at the national ProStart Invitational in Minneapolis, MN May 3-5 2014.  I wish them well and will be looking for them on the line in the kitchens of America.

All the food on display (Great job to all!)
Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)