One group of area students will not be studying this weekend, but will be in the kitchen determining who is the best culinary team in the nation.

One group of area students will not be studying this weekend, but will be in the kitchen determining who is the best culinary team in the nation.

The ProStart Culinary Team from the Herndon Career Center is competing in the National ProStart Competition this weekend in Baltimore. The team placed first at the State ProStart competition, earning the team a place at nationals. ProStart is a two-year, career-building program for high school students. They learn fundamental culinary and management skills in the classroom, while also having the opportunity to work with industry professionals.

The 2012 Herndon Culinary team includes team captain Hailey Rausch, Lee’s Summit High School; Tia Throckmorton and Amanda Sutcliffe, Lee’s Summit North; Ashley Battle, Lee’s Summit West; and team alternate Layren Daugherty, Raytown High School. Students in the Independence School District are also involved in Herndon’s culinary arts program.

“Our program is unique in that students can be proficient and work now and during their education, or students can go to college for culinary arts or hospitality management, nutrition or gain knowledge in work safety and sanitation,” Chef Jeff Qualls said of the culinary arts program at Herndon. “Our students know more about sanitation and work safety than most managers do in the industry. Then there is the students’ creativity and how they can channel that component in the culinary arts. Students can become business owners and we have students that have placed within the top ten in math and science testing within the state of Missouri.”

Teams that qualify for the ProStart Invitational must demonstrate their culinary abilities by preparing a three-course meal in only 60 minutes. Team members also must perform four out of seven classic cuts in knife skills (julienne, brunoise, chiffonade, medium dice, mince and diagonal) and show knowledge of safety and organization as well as proper clean-up. This is not Herndon’s first time in the national competition. Not only have they competed at the national level for the past several years, but they were also the 2009 national champions.

The top five teams at the competition will receive medals and scholarships to pursue a career in the restaurant and food service industry.

“The competition component to the Herndon Culinary Arts program and why it is so successful starts with the home school districts that supply our students, like Independence, Lee’s Summit, Grandview, Ruskin and the Raytown school districts. The consumer science divisions at these school districts teach the first year of the ProStart curriculum and some schools offer advance foods and nutrition courses. Herndon and these other school districts work with the Career and Education Consortium to develop the curriculum and where we all are in sync and help keep within the states guidelines for Culinary Arts Education,” Qualls said. “Winning first place is the goal for our team or any team competing in the ProStart Nationals. I try to shoot for placing in the top five. The goal for our team is keep a positive attitude, show a professional demeanor. We aim to keep the Herndon tradition alive in keeping our plates clean, proper portion size, plate presentation and show our technical skills in preparing the plates for competition.”

Qualls said the team has been practicing six days a week for the last three weeks to prepare for the competition. He said students research and try out new recipe ideas to come up with their menu, tweaking concepts to see if they fit.

“The overall goal for students in our culinary arts program is learn the basic skills in a commercial kitchen, learn how to work with other colleagues in the work place, gain experience in the hospitality industry and expand on those interest to excel at whatever career choice they end up following,” he said. “I like to emphasize to our students that there are many paths you can follow in the hospitality Industry and this is the beginning of their journey.”