Competition serves up ‘ProStart’ for Lake Forest students

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HARRINGTON — A candle, carefully placed inside a decadent chocolate strawberry torte, flickered in the warmly lit Bonz restaurant Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Dolores Thomas began her birthday celebration a day early this year thanks to her granddaughter Janaie Thomas and three other Lake Forest High School students enrolled in the foods and nutrition pathway.

The four students cooked up a gourmet, three- course meal for Lake Forest School District officials, family members and others including Representative Jack Peterman and Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce President Judy Diogo in preparation for the statewide Pro-Start competition held Tuesday, March 1.

“It easily would have been a $50 meal,” Lake Forest School District Superintendent Dr. Brenda G. Wynder said.

Family and consumer economics teacher Kelly Haugh said the evening gave students a great opportunity to practice for the upcoming competition while cooking at a high volume and not letting food go to waste.

“This is a tough competition,” she explained. “This is like your food network style competition. We’ve been preparing all year. They have to demonstrate knife skills and pull whole chickens apart which was one of the hardest parts but now it’s unbelievable.”

Three of the students in the Lake Forest ProStart team are in their third year of the family and consumer economics pathway while one is in her second year, but all have taken an active leadership role with other students, according to Ms. Haugh.

“This side, the competition part, is after school. But these students are taking what they learned and are becoming leaders in the classroom. It’s kind of a hard thing to invest in and devote time for them. It’s been a privilege to watch that happen,” she said.

Students and faculty teamed up with Harrington Raceway and Ca sino who hosted and sponsored the event Tuesday evening in Bonz, the casino’s premiere dining venue.

The Delaware Restaurant Association administers the statewide program which then feeds into the national branch administered by the National Restaurant Association.

The program includes a nationally recognized two-year high school curriculum that unites the classroom and industry to develop restaurant and food service leaders of the future. ProStart was originally launched in Delaware as part of Governor Jack Markell’s “Pathway to Prosperity” initiative.

The Felton-based team of four students has been working with Harrington Raceway and Casino Executive Director of Food and Beverage D.J. Silicato and Bonz Executive Chef Jason Ordway in hopes of winning top prizes at the statewide competition, including up to $33,000 individually in scholarship funds and a spot in the national competition to be held in Dallas, TX on April 29.

Three of the students, however, have already earned a recognition that may reach further than any competition prize: employment at Harrington Raceway and Casino.

Lake Forest High School Seniors Collin Tunnell, Ms. Thomas and Cassandra Broadhurt all plan on attending Delaware Technical Community College’s culinary arts program located at the Terry campus through the SEED program.

Dreams for life after high school didn’t begin with culinary arts for Ms. Thomas who said she originally wanted to study business.

“Once I started this program, I really loved it but I want to still minor in business,” she said.

Ms. Thomas’ mother, Samone, says she now makes Dijon mustard at home and other dishes.

“She actually coached me on how to prepare my scallops,” Ms. Thomas’ mother said. “Now, with a four-year- old at home, the help in the kitchen is greatly appreciated. We are very happy and very pleased with this program. She really likes to be in the kitchen now.”

Ms. Thomas said the experience has been “lifechanging” between the introduction of new friends and a new career option.

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