2023 Minnesota State ProStart Invitational Results

St. Paul MN | February 28, 2023

The excitement was high as the 17th Annual Minnesota State ProStart Invitational welcomed 14 teams from 11 Minnesota high schools to the Saint Paul RiverCentre for a competition in two divisions — Culinary and Restaurant Management.

The state and national ProStart Invitationals are a program of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, which sets the rules for competition.

In the Culinary division, emerging young chefs put their knowledge and skills to the test, preparing and presenting a restaurant-caliber, three-course meal in one hour. They are judged on knife skills, teamwork, sanitation, presentation and taste.

Teams work with their educator coaches and industry mentors for several months leading up to the State Invitational, testing recipes and concepts, in preparation for Tuesday’s head-to-head.

“It is a highlight of my career to work alongside high school students and share my knowledge the same way I was taught as a teenager,” said Gilles Stassart, corporate chef at General Mills Foodservice who mentors the team from Elk River High School. “Programs like ProStart are extremely important to help encourage and groom the next generation of the hospitality workforce.”

Chef Gilles’ influence paid off as Elk River High School came away with awards in Professional Menu Design, Creative Plating, Sanitation and 2nd place in both the Management and Culinary divisions.

Chef John Van House serves as the lead judge for the Culinary competition, running a complex team of industry professionals volunteering to make certain the competition runs smoothly and according to the rules. When asked what the most important qualities he looks for in the competitors, he said “the most important thing for me is that they’re here for a reason; that they’re enjoying their time, and that they’re working as a team. We get into skill sets and technique, but coming in with the right mindset to compete and to learn. The right attitude is what I’m really what I’m looking for.”

In the Management division, teams develop and present the business plan for a new restaurant concept.

Branden Robinson, General Manager of the South Pier Inn on the Canal in Duluth, serves as the lead judge for the Management competition. When asked what’s most important to him to see in the participants in the Management team competition, he responded, “I’m amazed at how well the teams split their roles. They each have the opportunity to share their ideas, come up with solutions and questions that really show a deep level of understanding process behind the concept. It’s not that it’s just rote memorization of the idea. It is true out there understanding of the concept of delivery there.”

This year’s presented concepts were:

  • Demeter’s Harvest — Sauk Rapid-Rice High School’s Mediterranean-American fusion farm-to-table restaurant honoring Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest and agriculture.
  • Sunny Acres Breakfast — Elk River High School’s a sustainable, farm-to-table breakfast cafe
  • Treehouse — Proctor High School’s “grown-on-site” whole foods restaurant inspired by the Sioux Chef, a cookbook written by Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley.

Management teams are judged on concept, menu and costing, operations, marketing and critical thinking.

After a full day of competition and with the scoring completed, the community gathered to present awards for individual and team accomplishments. During the brief program before turning to the student awards, a special opportunity for students was announced and two ProStart leaders were recognized for their dedication to ProStart students.

John Svoboda, representing the University of Wisconsin-Stout, announced that the University will provide a $1,000 scholarship to students entering their Hospitality and Tourism Management program. [Contact UW-Stout for more information].

Then, recognition was given to:

2023 Minnesota ProStart Mentor of the Year: Executive Chef James Leeder-Botnan of McGarry’s Pub in Maple Plain MN. Chef Leeder-Botnan is mentor to the Sauk Rapids-Rice High School team.

2023 Minnesota ProStart Teach of the Year: Kelly Delacruz of New Richmond-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva High School (NRHEG).

Competition awards were given to:

Knife Skills: The top four students that demonstrated the best knife skills:

  • Dellaney Deuel | Pillager High School
  • Laruen Schreder | Cambridge High School
  • Grant Stoltman | Elk River High School
  • Julian Bunney | Integrated Arts Academy

Each student received a knife set in recognition.

Teamwork: Zimmerman High School — Team A

Professional Menu Design: Elk River High School

Sanitation: Elk River High School

Essence of Taste Award: Pillager High School

Creative Plating Award: Elk River High School

Team Spirit: Hopkins High School

Competition Awards: First-place winners in the state competition go on to represent Minnesota at the National ProStart Invitational in Washington D.C., May 2-4, 2023.


  • 1st Place: Sauk Rapids-Rice High School
  • 2nd Place: Elk River High School
  • 3rd Place: Proctor High School


  • 1st Place: Pillager High School
  • 2nd Place: Elk River High School
  • 3rd Place: Sauk Rapids Rice High School
  • 4th Place: Hopkins High School
  • 5th Place: Zimmerman High School — Team A

Congratulations to all the 2023 competitors. We look forward to watching Minnesota’s ProStart teams at Nationals and welcoming new and returning competitors back to the RiverCentre in 2024.

Our thanks to all our sponsors, educators, mentors, judges and timers. This would not happen without you.

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