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Elk River and Sauk Rapids-Rice High Schools Repeat Top Honors at Minnesota’s 2016 ProStart Invitational

Teams from Elk River and Sauk Rapids-Rice high schools repeated first place honors in the culinary competition and management competition respectively at the 10th annual Minnesota ProStart Invitational, sponsored by the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation and Sysco Minnesota. The event, held March 10 at Sysco Minnesota in Mounds View, showcased the cooking talents and business skills of high school students enrolled in the ProStart program at their schools. Both teams now advance to the National ProStart Invitational, which will be held in Texas on April 29-May 1.

Culinary Competition
Each of the competing culinary teams had one hour to prepare a three-course meal using two butane burners. They were judged on teamwork, sanitation, menu presentation and taste, as well as knife skills. Nine teams entered the culinary competition from across the state.

Elk River Culinary Team Elk River Culinary Team

The first-place team from Elk River High School prepared "Ahi Tuna Carpaccio" as the starter, "Pan Roasted Wild Acres Duck Breast" for the entrée and "Toasted Coconut Caramelized Filo" for dessert. Team members include Avalon Donat, Kailey Johnson, Dan Loram, Mark Swan and alternate Lizzie Holby. They are coached by instructor Monique Sabby.

Placing second in the culinary competition was the team from Park Center High School, consisting of students Jessica Camerena, Hawa Doucoure, Brody Snyder, Lue Yang and alternate Dgene Kaba. Instructor Katherine Hutchinson serves as their coach. A team from Sauk Rapids-Rice High School placed third, including team members Hanna Meyer, Julianna O’Mara, Abby Schiller and Shae Waseka. Sauk Rapids-Rice is coached by Mary Levinski.

Individuals receiving honors for knife skills during the culinary competition were Alyssa Savage from North Branch (first place) and Kailey Johnson from Elk River (second place). Each received a set of high quality knives, courtesy of Mercer Culinary.

Other high schools in the Culinary Competition included: Hopkins, two teams from Integrated Arts Academy in Chaska, North Branch, North Education Center Academy in New Hope (competing for the first time) and a second team from Sauk Rapids-Rice.

Management Competition
Teams in the management competition developed a proposal for an original restaurant concept based on guidelines specified by ProStart. Students shared written and oral presentations with judges about their concept's menu, décor, price structure, marketing plan and other considerations. A second set of judges evaluated teams' critical thinking.

Sauk Rapids-Rice Management Team Sauk Rapids-Rice Management Team

The first-place management team from Sauk Rapids-Rice High School developed a concept for "Pasta Sano," a fast casual restaurant where customers build their own health pasta bowls. Team members include Marianna Blair, Kelsey Christenson, Hanna Meyer and Paige Vogt. They are coached by Mary Levinski.

The management team from Elk River took second place for their concept, "The Three," which features meals from three different areas of the world: Italy, Spain and Asia. Team members include: Serenity Lage, Mary Stoutenburg, Meghan Stoutenburg and Trevor Taylor. The team is coached by Monique Sabby.

Six post-secondary culinary/hospitality schools offered scholarships to members of the top placing teams, with awards varying from $500 to $5,000 per year. The schools included The Culinary Institute of America, The International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes, Johnson & Wales University, Louisiana Culinary Institute, New England Culinary Institute and Southwest Minnesota State University.

Culinary Competition Judges Culinary Competition Judges

Serving as judges for the two competitions were more than 30 highly respected chefs, restaurateurs and culinary instructors. Please visit to view the full list of judges.

ProStart is a two-year educational program supported by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation in partnership with state restaurant associations. The career-building program blends classroom learning with mentored work experience to teach high school students the management and culinary skills needed for a career in the restaurant and foodservice industry. Thirty-six Minnesota schools currently offer the ProStart curriculum to their students. For more information on the ProStart program, visit

About the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation
The Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation (HMEF) is a nonprofit 501© (3) charitable education foundation whose mission is to educate and develop future employees and leaders for the hospitality industry HMEF was founded in 2006 by the Minnesota Restaurant Association, Minnesota Lodging Association and the Minnesota Resort & Campground Association to:

  • Implement a high school curriculum to train future employees and leaders of the foodservice and lodging industry.
  • Initiate a strong and sustainable scholarship program for students pursuing post-secondary education toward careers in restaurant or lodging management.
  • Highlight the excellent career opportunities within the hospitality industry and demonstrate the essential role foodservice and lodging plays in Minnesota's economy.

The foundation's work is made possible through the generous support of Hospitality Leaders Fund donors: Cargill Foods, Carlson Family Foundation, Parasole Restaurant Holdings, Sysco Minnesota and US Foods.

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