Area high school students are learning how they can answer that daily question: "What's for dinner?"
The students are participating in special ProStart® culinary classes at hundreds of schools across the Midwest and nation. ProStart is a two-year curriculum that introduces thousands of students to the skills needed for careers in the culinary arts/restaurant industry in addition to the hospitality industry.
The students learn from technical-education teachers assisted by mentors who are culinary arts professionals from local communities. Some of the ProStart mentors in our area are chefs from Aurora Health Care. They volunteer their time to help the kids learn food prep skills and grow their understanding of healthful nutrition.
Each week students have three lecture days and two days in the kitchen. The mentors participate in the kitchen classes. Food and kitchen safety are classroom priorities along with terminology.
"During the first classes, you see some apprehension in the students," says Christopher Martin, system food production manager for Aurora Health Care. "Once they realize we're volunteers and professionals, they relax and start asking questions."
"I volunteer at a school where the socioeconomic situations of many students may leave them with limited career opportunities," explains Doug Essers, chef/production supervisor at Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee. "The program gives these students a chance to learn skills that can open doors to rewarding restaurant or food service jobs. I serve as an example of the success you can have working in health care."
"I bring a few ingredients to the classes that the kids may not have seen before," says Larry Bushner, manager of support services at Zilber Family Hospice in Milwaukee. "This helps spark the students' interest. The kids watch intently as I prepare items and explain how important prep work and sanitation are."
"After you show you care about them as individuals and show interest in their progress, they start to look forward to their ProStart classes and being in the kitchen," adds Doug. "Their faces light up and you can tell they're engaged."
The ProStart program receives support from the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. Each school funds its teachers, textbooks and kitchen with invaluable help from community sponsors.
Students can earn credit, cash and scholarships for college or further culinary training. To learn more about ProStart and how people in the community support the program, visit GoProStart.com.