On Feb. 28th, the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) will welcome thirteen culinary teams and eight management teams comprised of high school ProStart students from across the state to compete in the 14th Annual Illinois ProStart Invitational—a full day of culinary and restaurant management competitions.

The event is hosted by the IRAEF, presented by title sponsor Sysco Chicago and will be held at a new location, McCormick Place, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Participating students prepare months in advance to compete in the ProStart Invitational’s two exciting events: the Culinary Competition and Management Competition. To help hone their culinary and hospitality management knowledge, teams had the opportunity to work with mentor chefs provided through partner businesses and restaurants, as well as The Trotter Project.

In the Culinary Competition, students in teams of two to four students must prepare two identical portions of a three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, entrée, and dessert within a 60-minute timeframe. The students are also judged on knife skills and poultry fabrication; method and technique; sanitation and safety; presentation; recipe costing; organization; and teamwork.

In the Management Competition, teams of two to four students will present a proposal for a unique restaurant concept in “ProStartville”, Illinois. Each team will be evaluated on their presentation communicating the concept, menu, and marketing tactics; a visual display board; and on critical thinking responses to foodservice, hospitality, and business-focused questions covered in the first year of the ProStart curriculum.

Both competitions will be judged by leading industry professionals and post-secondary schools as well as leading hospitality organizations and corporations.

Students placing first through third from each competition will be awarded prizes and scholarships to pursue post-secondary education in foodservice and restaurant management. The winning Culinary and Management teams will also receive the honor of representing Illinois at the National ProStart Invitational held at Disneyland in Anaheim, California from April 17th—20th. Illinois teams will compete against teams from 47 states.

“The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation prepares ProStart students for the Invitational through mentoring, training and internships,” says Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association. “It is a culmination of the hard work, talent, and skills they have honed throughout the year, both on-the-job and in the classroom.”

The Invitational will also include a College Fair & Expo from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Sysco Lounge featuring admissions representatives from approximately eight post-secondary culinary programs. Host sponsor Savor Chicago at McCormick Place will sponsor a Savor Demo Stage featuring chefs from McCormick Place and Kendall College to teach techniques and engage students and guests.

The competition will welcome special guests including representatives from Chicago Public Schools, celebrity chefs, politicians, and other key industry leaders that are advocates for education and the ProStart program.

The competing students have proven their commitment to the foodservice industry through participation in ProStart’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management vigorous curriculum and industry connecting activities. The participating high schools encompassing both competitions include:

  • Center for Academics & Technology
  • Roberto Clemente Community Academy
  • Benito Juarez Community Academy
  • North- Grand High School
  • Oswego High School
  • Reavis High School
  • Rich South High School
  • Rolling Meadows High School
  • Theodore Roosevelt High School
  • Simeon Career Academy
  • Technology Center of DuPage
  • Thornton Fractional North High School
  • Thornton Township High School
  • West Aurora High School
  • Wilco Area Career Center
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