By Dale J. Venturini, President & CEO, RI Hospitality Association
The RI Hospitality Education Foundation hosted the 11th Annual Rhode Island Prostart® High School Culinary Arts, Foodservice & Hotel Management Competition at the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick in February. This was a really special event, as it marked the second time since the pandemic that we were able to host this amazing real-world competition for high school culinary students.
Nearly 600 RI students are enrolled in ProStart®, a two-year hospitality career-building program designed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, and another 100 Rhode Island students are enrolled in the Hospitality & Tourism Management program, the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute’s two-year, turnkey high school curriculum.
As part of the competition’s awards, seven different colleges and universities pledged $500,000 in available scholarship money to be shared among the winning teams. And, as usual, the competition was fierce.
This year’s event featured teams of culinary, foodservice management and hotel management competitors from area schools, including CHARIHOTech; East Providence Career & Technical Center; Exeter Job Corps Academy; Newport Area Career and Technical Center; William M. Davies, Jr. Career and Technical High School in Lincoln; and Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center. More than 50 local industry professionals judged the 45 students who competed in three areas:
• Culinary Arts: Competing teams demonstrated their technical skills, including safe food transportation, knife skills, a cook-off by preparing a three-course meal (using only two burners), teamwork/cooperation, professionalism/appearance, plate presentation and more.
• Foodservice Management: Students presented a restaurant concept and business plan, including design boards, floor plans, marketing plans and menu design.
• Hotel Management: Competing teams demonstrated their hotel industry acumen by designing a hotel property using skills and knowledge learned in the classroom. Teams also submitted a written proposal for review and presented their concepts to various judges through verbal presentations, critical thinking question and answer sections, and posters.
A culinary team from the Exeter Job Corps Academy won the Culinary Arts portion of the competition, a foodservice management team from the East Providence Area Career & Technical Center won the Foodservice Management portion of the competition and a hospitality and tourism management team from CHARIHOTech won the Hotel Management portion of the competition.
Newport Restaurant Group’s Avvio Ristorante in Cranston is featuring an adaptation of the winning dish from Exeter Job Corps Academy Culinary Arts team on its menu: a pan-seared Tuscan-style veal chop served with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and sauteed root vegetables. Sin Desserts in Providence is also featuring a dessert created by William M. Davies, Jr. Career & Technical High School: a whipped white chocolate ganache with grapefruit curd.
The winners of the ProStart® competition go on to represent Rhode Island at the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s National ProStart® Invitational competition, which returns to Washington, D.C., on May 2. There, nationally recognized hospitality and foodservice industry professionals will lend their time and talents to judge the students.
It is because of enthusiastic and engaged students like these that the future of Rhode Island’s hospitality scene is looking so very bright. Seeing these students demonstrate so much passion for their respective crafts, whether culinary- or management-based, is enough to make you smile ear to ear and to fill your belly with unrelenting hunger pangs.
The RI Hospitality Association and RI Hospitality Association are proud to host such a unique and invigorating event for hospitality’s up-and-coming talent each year and we are extremely grateful to each of the respected industry professionals who dedicated their time to judging this year’s unforgettable competition!
A veteran of more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Venturini is considered by many to be the voice of the industry in the state of Rhode Island. She has been instrumental in improving the industry’s educational and training programs in the state, as well as enhancing the bottom line of the business she represents. Venturini splits her time between the office and the State House, a constant presence for her membership.