Chalmette High School Students Win Louisiana ProStart Invitational

[L-R]: Amya Farrell, Razan Alkurd, Emma Oliver, Aiden Duhe, Brandon Jackson, Tony Nguyen, Kyle Thomas, Rosie Knight, Elena Hodges, An Tra, and Chef Anastasia Joyner.

It was a day to be celebrated when nine Chalmette High School (CHS) ProStart students took home the gold at the Louisiana Prostart Invitational competition held at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The winning team of dual enrollment students took part in both the Culinary and Management categories. 

Working with Chef Anatasia Joyner from Nunez Community College and their CHS instructor Elena Hodges, participants developed a restaurant concept and a three-course meal. 

CHS students Razan Alkurd, An Tra, Emma Oliver, Amya Farrell, and Aiden Duhe developed a creole-fusion Mediterranean restaurant called Al Medinah for the Management competition. These students were given restaurant space scenarios in the fictional location of ProStartville. From there, they had to develop the entire restaurant concept including the type of establishment, target market, hours of operation, location, floor plan, marketing and business plan, and of course, menu to present to the judges. When the scores were tallied, the management team claimed first place. 

In the Culinary competition, CHS students Tony Nguyen, Kyle Thomas, Aiden Duhe, Rosie Knight, and team manager Brandon Jackson worked together to build a three-course meal that could be prepared in the allotted 60-minute time slot. 

The menu consisted of a butter-seared lobster tail on a bed of sliced radishes and avocado as an appetizer; blackberry hoisin glazed pork tenderloin with Hannah white sweet potato mash, garlicky sugar snap peas, and maple-glazed pecans as an entree; and for dessert, an apple crisp dome with chantilly whipped cream, seasonal fruit, and glazed pecan. With judges and health inspectors keeping a close and watchful eye, Tony Nguyen prepared sauce and the pork tenderloin donated by Jeanfreau’s Meats, Kyle Thomas tackled the potatoes and veggies, Aiden Duhe took on the full appetizer, and Rosie Knight whipped up the dessert. Team manager Brandon kept them on task, giving instructions and up-to-the-minute time reminders. For their efforts and skills, this team was also recognized as the best by the judges. 

As first-place winners, each team member receives a scholarship to the following institutions: The Culinary Institute of America ($2,000), Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts ($5,000), Sullivan University ($12,000), University of Holy Cross Food Science Program ($2,000), University of New Orleans-HRT ($1,000), and New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute ($4,000). 

In May, the team will represent Louisiana at the National ProStart Invitational in Washington D.C., with the opportunity to earn additional scholarships and prizes from the nation’s best culinary and restaurant management programs.

Aleen LeBoeuf, CTE Coordinator for St. Bernard Parish Public Schools, praised the ProStart program for providing an opportunity for high school students to discover new interests and talents and commended the team’s ability to stay calm under pressure.

“Watching these students compete surrounded by judges and health inspectors armed with clipboards scribbling notes was intense,” said LeBoeuf. “Their composure and teamwork under that kind of pressure is a testament to their preparation, practice, and hard work. Kudos to these students, their excellent instructor, and Nunez Community College mentors.”

The ProStart program brings industry and the classroom together. Students who complete the program are awarded the Certificate of Achievement and are eligible for scholarship opportunities and course credits at more than 75 of the country’s leading hospitality and culinary arts colleges and universities. Visit the ProStart website for more information about the program and invitational.