I was invited to judge the state finals for the high school prostart culinary program today.
ProStart is the career-building program for high school students who are interested in culinary arts and restaurant and foodservice management. the kids study in the classroom, participate in mentored work experiences, and test their skills in local and national competitions.
I was taken back by the enthusiasm and dedication that these kids had for what they were doing. 5 teams competed for scholarships awarded by CIA, Johnson & Wales & New England Culinary Institute and a chance to compete in the nationals this coming April.
It was great seeing and tasting the work of young and inspired cooks. And Ill tell you that not only were the students a nervous wreck but their mentors and culinary instructors were even more nervous watching what they had been teaching for months finally come to be a reality.
The touch part was remembering that these students were just that.....students, and young students who most of have never even stepped foot in a commercial kitchen. Some did an amazing job, others not so amazing...but what was amazing to me was how calm each of these students were presenting their dishes to myself and 5 other judges including Andy Husbands of Tremont 647, Christopher Coombs of D-Bar and the Executive chefs from NECI & Le Cordon Bleu to name a few. They believed in what they were doing and they showed no fear....which is more than I can say if I were in their positions as a teenager.
It was rewarding to be part of possibly giving a young aspiring chef a few tips and pointers, constructive criticism and maybe even the confirmation that this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives....