Washington, D.C. – The Connecticut ProStart State Champions, Wilbur Cross High School, placed 1st in the nation last night in the Restaurant Management Competition at the 2023 National ProStart Invitational in Washington, DC. ProStart is the nation’s premier high school culinary arts and restaurant management competition. The Wilbur Cross team represented the state of Connecticut, joining 92 teams from across the country to vie for top high school culinary and restaurant management honors, as well as nearly $200,000 in scholarships to support students’ future aspirations in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
The Wilbur Cross Culinary team placed 21st out of 46 teams. With the 1st place finish, each student received a $7,000 scholarship from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The Wilbur Cross Management team also placed 1st in 2018, 4th in 2022, 5th in 2017 and 7th in 2019.
Wilbur Cross High students Charlotte Buterbaugh, Paulette Jara, Adam Sharqawe and Jailyn Gonzalez as the team manager presented the restaurant concept Nafas Kitchen—a casual West Asian restaurant that is a place for advocacy, change and community. Menu items are inspired from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan include Moghrabieh, a rich stew of Moghrabieh (pearl pasta), shredded chicken & pearl onions topped with chickpeas & parsley; Salad Fattous, mixed greens, mint, green onions and tomatoes in a zesty vinaigrette topped with fried pita chips, feta cheese & pomegranate; and Daheen, a moist sweet cake sprinkled with grated, dried coconut. The restaurant concept also addresses workforce staffing shortages that face the restaurant industry across the country by working with their local refugee services to provide culinary training and a pipeline to employment.
The team had to present their business proposal to the judges through a series of “Shark Tank” like interactions where they were asked to elaborate on their concept, menu, how they would market the restaurant and think quickly on their feet to answer a variety of critical thinking questions.
“The National ProStart Invitational is our nation’s premiere competition for the hospitality industry. It takes an incredible amount of dedication and passion to get into the top five and on stage at NPSI. Placing first is extremely difficult, ” says Jennifer Conkling-Schmitz, Foundation Director, of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. “The Wilbur Cross students are talented and focused, but also a lot of fun. They believed in their concept and believed in themselves. It was a pleasure to see their confidence build as the week went on both the competition floor and off. ProStart teaches culinary and restaurant management, but soft skills like communication and teamwork will prepare them for a bright future. Kudos to their educators and mentors for preparing these students and helping them to believe in themselves.”
The Wilbur Cross Culinary Team students, Daisy Galicia Lucero, Antonio Mandania, Christopher Ramirez, Mireya Rodriguez and Daleska Zeas, prepared a three-course meal in less than 60 minutes over two butane burners. Their menu included a Pan-Seared Sea Scallops as the starter, Pan-Roasted Beef Tenderloin with charred cipollini onions, cherry tomato, shiitake mushroom and batonnet carrots, parsnip puree, béarnaise sauce and creamy horseradish for the entrée, and Chocolate Joconde Cake for dessert. The team was judged on taste and presentation, cooking technique, knife skills, difficulty of menu and safety and sanitation.
“This was an incredible week for the Connecticut hospitality industry as Wilbur Cross students brought a national championship back for not only their state, but also their home city of New Haven,” said Scott Dolch, President & CEO of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. “The hospitality industry accounts for 10 percent of Connecticut’s economy, employing tens of thousands of state residents from all walks of life. For many students, their career path can and does start through programs and competitions such as this, as they learn the necessary skills for entering the restaurant business and workforce.”
The following sponsors have helped support the Connecticut ProStart team from Wilbur Cross High School as they traveled to the National ProStart Invitational: Subway® restaurant chain, Performance Food Group, Falvey Linen, CT Army National Guard, For the Food, Union League Café, University of New Haven – Pompea College of Business, 110 Grill, Hartford Restaurant Group, DORO Restaurant Group, the Hartford Yard Goats and Sysco CT.
To learn more about the 2023 National ProStart Invitational, visit ChooseRestaurants.org/ProStart.
For more information on the ProStart® program, visit ChooseRestaurants.org/ProStart or find us on Twitter or Facebook.
The Connecticut Hospitality Educational Foundation (CHEF) is the non-profit 501(c)3, philanthropic arm of the Connecticut Restaurant Association (CRA). Its mission is to promote the health and prosperity of Connecticut’s hospitality industry through education, scholarships and financial assistance. CHEF works to attract, develop and retain a career-oriented professional workforce for the restaurant industry through education for future restaurant industry professionals, workforce development opportunities and scholarships.
ABOUT THE CONNECTICUT RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION
The Connecticut Restaurant Association is a full service, not-for-profit trade association dedicated to supporting every type and size of restaurant. We are advocates for the Connecticut restaurant industry, a hub for information and a platform for networking. We commit ourselves to offering cost effective benefits and resources you need to run a profitable business. The industry plays an integral role in Connecticut’s economy employing more than 140,000 foodservice workers and generating over $9 billion in annual sales. Along with the Connecticut Hospitality Educational Foundation (CHEF), the Association protects, advances, and educates the growing industry. Learn more at www.ctrestaurant.org.
ProStart®, a nationwide, two-year high school career and technical education program uniting the classroom and restaurant industry, reaches nearly 165,000 students at almost 1,850 high schools throughout all states, the District of Columbia and Guam. ProStart gives students a platform to discover and develop new interests and talents, while teaching employability skills like teamwork, professional behavior, time management and communication.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (NRAEF)
As the supporting philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF’s charitable mission includes enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development, and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to Attract, Empower, and Advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce. NRAEF programs include: ProStart® – a high-school career and technical education program; Restaurant Ready/HOPES – Partnering with community based organizations to provide people with skills training and job opportunities; Military – helping military servicemen and women transition their skills to restaurant and foodservice careers; Scholarships – financial assistance for students pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality degrees; and the Restaurant & Hospitality Leadership Center (RHLC) – accredited apprenticeship programs designed to build the careers of service professionals. For more information on the NRAEF, visit ChooseRestaurants.org. Click here for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s 2022 Annual Impact Report.
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CT Management First Place – Left to Right: Scott Dolch - CT Restaurant Association President & CEO; Jennifer Conkling-Schmitz – Foundation Director of CT Hospitality Educational Foundation; Wilbur Cross Students - Jailyn Gonzalez, Paulette Jara, Charlotte Buterbaugh and Adam Sharqawe; Wilbur Cross High School ProStart Educators Lisa Lapidus and Nathaniel Bradshaw
Team Photo – Wilbur Cross Students – Left to Right: Paulette Jara, Charlotte Buterbaugh, Antonio Mandania, Mireya Rodriguez, Daleska Zeas, Daisy Galicia Lucero, Christopher Ramirez, Jailyn Gonzalez and Adam Sharqawe (Red Shirts Management Team and White Chef Coats Culinary Team)