High School Students Sharpening Their Knives for Georgia ProStart Invitational on Feb. 29

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High School Students Sharpening Their Knives for Georgia ProStart Invitational on Feb. 29

ATLANTA, February 14, 2024 - With fast-paced competitions that can be described as a combination of “Shark Tank” and “Chopped,” the Georgia ProStart Invitational attracts hundreds of high school students who are ready to flex their culinary skills for a chance to win scholarship money and to compete on the national level. The 2024 Georgia ProStart Invitational will take place Thursday, Feb. 29, from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Gas South Convention Center in Duluth. 

“These talented students are the future of our industry,” says Georgia Restaurant Association president and CEO Stephanie Fischer. “Their creativity and enthusiasm for the restaurant business is unmatched, and it’s always a thrill to see them rise to the occasion in this competition.”

Students from 10 high schools will compete in teams of five in two different divisions: Culinary and Management. Culinary teams task students with creating a high-quality three-course meal in just 60 minutes using only two butane burners, two eight-foot tables and no running water or electricity. Teams are judged on taste, skill, teamwork, safety and sanitation. Management teams spend months developing a unique restaurant concept and then have one hour to pitch it to a panel of restaurant industry judges who will ask questions about their hypothetical restaurant.

The top three teams in each division will receive generous scholarships to pursue further education. More than $1 million has been pledged by post-secondary institutions to support scholarships for this year’s winners, and every participant is eligible for a $500 scholarship to Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas, or Boulder, Colorado. First-place teams will represent Georgia at the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore over April 26-28 and compete for additional scholarship opportunities.

Jennifer Pacheco was a two-time member of the Maxwell High School of Technology’s Management team, which won the category in 2022 and 2023. Today, she is a student at the Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park campus, thanks to the skills she built and the support she received through the ProStart program.

“Being a part of the ProStart program really helped me discover a part of me I never knew I had,” says Pacheco. “My team and I built an indescribable bond, met amazing people and had an amazing support system and mentors.”

The ProStart program is a nationwide educational initiative that nurtures the talents of students who are interested in careers in the culinary field. Currently, 44 schools in Georgia are registered in the ProStart program. Classes teach foundational skills for culinary techniques and management, and students who complete the two-year program receive an industry-recognized certificate that validates their abilities.