National ProStart Invitational 2022 inspires next generation of restaurant leaders

In-person event in Washington, DC returns for the first time since 2019

The National ProStart Invitational (NPSI) returned to an in-person format this year at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC May 6 – 8. The event stands as a bright spot for the restaurant industry, which is recovering from the pandemic—a testament that the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation arm and countless educators continue to advocate for the next generation of culinary professionals, owners and managers in the restaurant industry.

The three-day event creates for students an important element of competition and camaraderie. It featured an opening ceremony, two days of powerful culinary and restaurant management competition and an awards dinner. It was a pleasure to see the students in action and be a witness to how preparation played a large role in all areas.

In the management team competition, several teams were hard at work being challenged and graded by judges on several facets of creating and running a successful restaurant. As an example, the management team representing Maine, comprising Anjee Clavet, William Leach, Syann Miller, Drew Parker and Annalee Rogers, presented their Lower 48 restaurant concept. The team from Capital Area Technical Center, led by educator Patrick Austin, field very tough questions on concept, menu, marketing, and operations.

The Lower 48 restaurant concept highlighted food from the contiguous United States. As a result, the dishes reflect cuisine and ingredients that would be simpler to source. The team fielded questions about their concept with poise.

Another team at NPSI 2022 that brought their ideas, learnings and conceptualization to bear was the team from Pelham High School of Alabama, led by educator Alex Rodriguez-Arceo. Melissa Arambula-Zamora, Brian Salazar, Joseph Salazar, Fayez Thorpe, and Kenley Keilani created the Cheshire concept. The branding draws on customers’ inspirations and imagination.

Team from Pelham High School in Alabama addresses questions from judges in the 2022 ProStart management competition
Team from Pelham High School in Alabama addresses questions from judges in the 2022 ProStart management competition.

Upon entering the restaurants, customers roll the dice to win a prize. The Cheshire restaurant concept is represented by a tree with branches of luck. In the critical thinking portion of the competition, the judge had tough questions on hand, including asking them how to deal with disgruntled employees and customers on social media, as well as expired coupon redemption.

The culinary competition had many teams with high hopes and frenzied team pride. On the last day of the competition, teams from Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia competed. Spirits were high as the teams fired up their sauce pans to win a place in the winner’s circle.

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