Cape culinary students advance to National ProStart Invitational

Cape Henlopen Culinary Team members (l-r) Aubrey Inkster, Cassidy Blevins, Melissa Aucoin and Kendra Hudiburg will advance to the National ProStart Invitational after taking top honors in Delaware. PHOTOS BY ADRIENNE SHAW PHOTOGRAPHY
March 28, 2014

The Delaware Restaurant Association will be sending a culinary team from Cape Henlopen High School and a management team, also from Cape High, to compete in the 13th Annual National ProStart Invitational. The teams will compete against 40 other qualifying teams from across the country Saturday to Monday, May 3 to 5, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis, Minn., for a chance to win the national title.

At the national competition, hosted by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, the top five teams from both the culinary and management competitions will be awarded scholarships to pursue a college education.

“ProStart is developing the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s industry leaders.  These students have proven their mettle in the Delaware ProStart Student Invitational and have the full support of the Delaware restaurant industry as they move forward,” said Carrie Leishman, DRA president and CEO. “ProStart gives students a sense of purpose and helps them feel passionate about their own future. That passion will be on full display when the students represent Delaware in the National ProStart Invitational.”

The culinary and management teams will be accompanied by their educator, Jennifer Cornell, who was recently named the 2014 Delaware Educator Excellence Award Winner. Culinary team members include returning competitors Melissa Aucoin and Aubrey Inkster, along with Cassidy Blevins and Kendra Hudiburg.

They were mentored by Jay Caputo of Espuma Restaurant, Lion Gardner of Blue Moon Restaurant, and Danielle Panarello of Eden Restaurant. Management team members include Melissa Bredbenner, Rachel Diener, Jason Harris and Joshua Lesher. They were mentored by Meghan Gardner of Blue Moon Restaurant.

To qualify for the national competition, students first had to win the Delaware ProStart Student Invitational, which took place March 18 at Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center. The Culinary Competition challenged the students in knife skills and poultry fabrication.  The Management Competition was a chance for students to present a well-defined restaurant concept to judges who are industry experts. The same basic format applies to the national competition.

ProStart is a two-year educational program supported by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation in partnership with state restaurant associations. It blends classroom learning with mentored work experience to teach high school students the management and culinary skills needed for a career in the restaurant and foodservice industry.

When students meet academic standards, complete a checklist of competencies, and work at least 400 hours in the industry, they are awarded the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement that signifies they are well qualified to enter the industry workforce. For more information on the ProStart program, visit or find on Twitter or Facebook.


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