A celebratory week for Del. high schoolers and our restaurant community

April 13, 2018

It’s no secret that restaurants here in the Cape Region are finding it harder and harder to locate and retain skilled help in management and lead kitchen positions. In response to this, the Delaware Restaurant Association stepped up to the plate with the well-regarded ProStart program; a nationwide, two-year industry-written curriculum for high school students. Graduates can either apply their newfound culinary and management skills to entry-level positions in the industry, or continue their culinary education at postsecondary culinary schools.

The DRA stands behind the ProStart programs through the Delaware Restaurant Association Educational Foundation by awarding scholarships to students and educators who distinguish themselves in the programs. Last Wednesday, that collaboration was celebrated at the fourth annual DRAEF Fundraising Dinner at Harry’s Savoy Grill and Ballroom in Wilmington. DRAEF muckety-mucks singled out and honored ProStart students and graduates who prepared and served a lavish feast under the watchful eyes of many of our Sussex-centered executive chefs.

In spite of the DRA’s efforts to swell the ranks of culinary and management professionals, there is always room for more support, especially for students who might return to the Cape Region to staff our ever-growing lineup of great restaurants. To that end, Touch of Italy restaurants and teamed up four years ago to create the Culinary Scholarship Fund which provides tuition assistance to high schoolers who distinguish themselves in the classroom/practical levels of ProStart. At the moment, qualified applicants who successfully complete the ProStart programs at any Delaware high school that offers the program have a shot at the generous scholarships.

On Tuesday, April 10, Touch of Italy and, along with generous sponsors Cape Gazette, SoDel Concepts, Delmarva Broadcasting Company, Freedom Boat Club, Signarama, Dogfish Head, Atlantic Transportation, ANC Sports, Vintage Imports, Specialty Wines & Liquors, Lanterna Distributors, Bacchus Importers, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Ocean City’s Harrison Group, Seacrets Bar & Nightclub, and Lewes Auto Gallery plus a long list of cash contributors presented the Carnevale! Italian Street Fair to benefit the scholarship fund. In fact, the insanely busy Touch of Italy in Rehoboth Beach actually closed for an entire day in order to accommodate the gala. Talk about generous!

The fundraising efforts not only included a live auction of one-of-a-kind items and experiences conducted by none other than Delaware Realty auctioneer Richard Bryan, but also a raffle for an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Tuscany, Italy. The Italy raffle continues through May, and ticket sales are limited to only 300, giving every ticket-holder a better chance of being the lucky winner. And that lucky winner will be selected at 4:30 p.m., Saturday, June 2, on Delaware 105.9 FM’s Sip & Bite with the Rehoboth Foodie show. In addition, 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the scholarship fund!

Many people aren’t aware of the infrastructure and skills required to open and operate a successful restaurant. And nowhere is that more obvious than in a resort town, where Grand Opening signs can morph into For Lease signs in the blink of an eye. Organizations like the Touch of Italy/ Culinary Scholarship Foundation and the Delaware Restaurant Association work behind the scenes to help ensure that our Delaware dining experiences continue to be safe, creative and enjoyable.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at