By Michelle Leidy-Franklin
Students across the state of Kansas participated in the Kansas ProStart Invitational culinary and restaurant competition at the Wichita Marriott on March 8-9 hosted by the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association.
The competition allows high school students to compete in two categories: culinary and restaurant management. The event was open to the public with parents and school administrators encouraged to attend and cheer on their favorite team. First place teams in each category will represent Kansas at the National ProStart Invitational in Washington, D.C., May 6-8.
“This experience was new for all of us,” said Kassady Griffin, culinary instructor for Eisenhower High School in Goddard. “As a first-year teacher, I highly relied on the ProStart rules and procedures book we were given. I also was given Chef Ben George from Intrust Bank Arena as my amazing mentor. The students and I were able to collaborate and they developed their materials based on their interests. I am so proud of all of them and I am excited to see what this program has for our school in the future.”
Eisenhower High School had a culinary team and management team participate in the competition.
For EHS sophomore Brayden Stewart, the competition was an eye-opening experience into the realities of his chosen future profession.
“It changed my view on how I look at the team aspect of it,” said Stewart. “I never knew how much teamwork it took to be able to push out just one dish. If it was that hard for our team to push out three dishes, I can’t imagine how hard it is to push out hundreds of dishes a night. I also never realized how much planning it takes. You have to be able to know everything you use to make the food. You have to be able to cost everything you use out and then decide how much you want to price that dish.”
But Stewart is not deterred. He still plans to enter the culinary world as an adult, but now he feels more prepared.
“After I graduate, I plan to attend Wichita State University Tech school for culinary and master in the food and beverage side of it,” said Stewart. “The competition showed me that I can’t do it on my own. I need the people to be there to tell me how much money I can spend. I need people there to help me in the kitchen. I need the people there to tell me what I’m doing wrong. It showed me how much of a team effort it is. You have to be a well-oiled machine to be able to do anything right in this industry.”
Campus High School in Haysville also participated in the competition. Haysville students competed in the culinary category only.
“There is a large group of culinary educators through various social media platforms and through various conversations, I learned about these competitions,” said Campus culinary instructor Brooke Ward. “Campus is a ProStart school and with that we have a large support system through the Kansas Restaurant Association.”
Ward said this competition has been beneficial to her students for not just the obvious skills of cooking and technique but also in learning how to work together as a team.
“They learn how important time management is in life,” said Ward. “One of the biggest benefits is they see you sometimes fail at what you love but using what you learned from failing only helps you to get better.”
Students from Campus High School were excited to be able to participate in the competition, learn something new, and make a few new friends.
“My experience from the competitions I’ve been to have been fun, exciting, awesome, and just all around a great time,” said Campus student Chris Guanche. “I spend the time with some of my friends, cool teachers, and sometimes make new friends there, too. I also have some of my favorite memories at competitions.”
Neither school placed in the state competition, but students still had a good time and found value in the experience.