Minnesota ProStart Teams Heading to Nationals in Washington D.C.

A group of students from Elk River and Sauk Rapids-Rice High Schools won’t be home to celebrate Mother’s Day this year. We don’t think their mothers will mind, because their headed to Nationals!

The students will head to the National ProStart Invitational (NPSI) in Washington D.C. on May 5, for competitions that begin on May 6 and culminate with the awards ceremony on May 8. NPSI is the country’s premier secondary school competition in restaurant management and culinary arts.

Each year, roughly 400 students test their skills in front a panel of judges made up of industry leaders and representatives of state restaurant associations and the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. The prize? Coveted scholarships from the top culinary and restaurant management program in the nation.

Here’s how the competition works.

NPSI is really two separate competitions, one in management and one in culinary arts. Teams come from across the US, having won their state competitions within the 30-60 days running up to the NPSI. They’ve been working together all year, and honing their projects following the state judging. It’s imperative that they show up ready to take responsibility for all aspects of the competition, because once the competition begins no coaching or interaction with anyone but the designated judges is allowed. Violation can result in disqualification.

These are serious competitors and they are in it to win it.

This year, Minnesota will be represented by Sauk Rapids-Rice High School in the management competition. The team, pictured left, includes (l to r) Noah Rosenberger, Chelsey Vogel, Jaidiv Lachmansingh and Kavan Gullette, with Mary Levinski. Levinski, the team’s educator coach. Some members of the team were on the 2021 Minnesota ProStart Invitational winning team, but the pandemic forced the cancellation of the national competition.

They are ready with their Asian-inspired big bowl food truck called Bát Đại, and they are sure to capture the judges attention with their bright red uniform shirts and an engaging presentation-style that helped them clinch the state title.

Working within parameters set by the competition, they must present their concept, menu and costing, marketing and operations (including layout, design and organizational chart). They are expected to answer questions from the panel, and they are evaluated on their critical thinking skills, as demonstrated through their teamwork, presentation skills and depth of knowledge. They are ranked on a 1-5 (1=poor and 5=excellent) on a wide range of criteria in each category, and they can be penalized for a number of different reasons. All of this is clearly spelled out in the materials the team has been working with throughout their ProStart year.

With teams from across the nation making their pitches to win top honors, you can imagine that the energy in the room runs high. In the culinary competition, things get hot as burners get turned on and the clock begins to run.

Elk River High School is bringing their strong showing in the Minnesota Invitational to the culinary arts competition. Student team members included (l to r) Lukas Larson, Grant Stoltman, Lainie Carlson, and Natalie Thompson, with Kaelyn Sacre as alternate. They are coached by Monique Sabby.

The team has 60 minutes to prepare a three-course meal, using only two butane burners and without access to electricity or running water. The competition workspaces are regulated as closely as nearly as any other competition court might be. The team cannot alter it. Their menus must be distinctive and cannot, to any significant degree, repeat previously submitted plans.

They are required to demonstrate working knowledge in a variety of methods, picking a minimum of two from poaching, shallow poaching, braising, pan frying, steaming and sautéing. There is a strict list of permitted and prohibited equipment. They must plate two full meals — one for tasting and judging and one for display — and their work is evaluated on taste, skill, teamwork, safety and sanitation.

Elk River’s 2022 National ProStart Invitational Menu the same prepared for the Minnesota ProStart Invitational, is:

Starter: Sautéed Walleye Shrimp and serrano ham ragu, polenta cake, chive oil, shrimp essence, priced at $18.00
Entrée: Pan Seared Lamb Ratatouille, wilted spinach and basil salad, balsamic reduction, priced at $30.00
Dessert: Chocolate Torte Cherry compote, orange chantilly cream, toasted almonds, mint syrup, priced at $12.00

Winners of the National ProStart Invitational take home more than trophies. The top five teams in each division are awarded generous educational scholarships to help them build their careers in the restaurant and foodservice industry. In addition, the competition is a great opportunity to meet other students and industry professionals from around the country.

All the best to our exciting competitors from Minnesota! We’ll be cheering you on, and don’t forget to call your mothers!

If you’d like to help defray the cost of travel or contribute to scholarships the HMEF awards to ProStart students, you can donate here.

Better yet! Join us at the Stars of the Future at the Bunker Hills Event Center on Sunday, April 24 from 3-5 p.m. In addition to delicious small plates, you can bid on live and silent auction items, purchase items from the giving wall and participate in a wine pull. You don’t need to be present to participate in the silent auction — it’s online! Learn more and register.

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