The two-day California ProStart Cup in Pasadena offers students an education that could turn them into the next Wolfgang Puck or Julia Child.
The culinary team from Vista High School finished their meal preparation on time, just one of many techniques assessed at the ProStart Cup held in Pasadena by the California Restaurant Association's Educational Foundation.
Knife skills, basic food preparation, sanitation and of course taste and presentation are all judged by masters in the culinary world. More than 70 California schools offer the ProStart curriculum, which gives incentives for kids to stay in school.
"We have 17,000 employees and we're going to need more," said Rob DeLiema, president of BJ's Restaurants Foundation. BJ's Restaurants is a major competition sponsor offering up $12,000 in scholarships, grants and awards to teachers and students.
"This is a very good way for us to give back to the community and to really invest in our own future, because these high school kids are going to be looking for jobs," said DeLiema.
The culinary teams have just 60 minutes to prepare a three-course meal on two butane burners. And there's the management teams that have to cook up new restaurant concepts. "It doesn't just take the sexiness of the food preparation and the cuisine, but it also sort of takes the dispassionate part of presenting a business plan, presenting a concept, preparing the food, deciding what to prepare," said Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association.
Twenty-three schools competed in the two-day California event with management and culinary winners heading to face off in the national finals in Maryland. The culinary winners were: 1. Pacifica High School, 2. Greenville High School, 3. Pleasant Valley High School.
The management winners were: 1. La Quinta High School 2. San Diego High School, 3. Rowland High School. ProStart educates more than 5,300 California students in the two-year program, while 150 are testing their skills at the ProStart Cup event, hoping for a career in the industry.
That worked for Haven Gastropub's pastry chef Santanna Salas, who helps judge this competition. "It's a very dear program to my heart. I'm a former student," said Salas.