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Colorado ProStart® Is on a Roll After a Difficult 2020

Colorado ProStart® offers high school juniors and seniors hands-on educational programming in restaurant and hospitality management, culinary arts, and business economics, through which they can earn high school and college academic credits, scholarships, and paid work-experience opportunities. This summer, we captured some of our Colorado ProStart® students in action and interviewed scholarship winners, mentors, and teachers to create a video showing what the program is all about.

As of this fall, 39 high schools offer Colorado ProStart® programs. The CRF supports Colorado ProStart® instructors with training sessions throughout the year, including a summer session in June; a breadmaking class at Metropolitan State University in September; an October refresher covering student exams and Certificates of Achievement; and an upcoming bootcamp in December to prepare teachers for the Colorado ProStart® Invitational, an annual culinary- and restaurant-management skills competition.

2021 New Opportunities and Special Events for Colorado ProStart® 

The CRF is always eager to provide ProStart® students with new experiences and challenges. This year, we added recipe challenges to the mix to get the students’ competitive spirits flowing. The first such recipe content tasked students with creating original recipes using dried beans. The winners — Sharon Kinch from Estes Park High School and Aidan Roberts from Odyssey Early College in Colorado Springs — earned the opportunity to cook on MSU Denver’s Rogue Kitchen YouTube channel. Sharon baked black bean brownies and Aidan made “Texas caviar” with black-eyed peas; both had a great time on camera.

The CRF also invited Colorado ProStart® students to volunteer at two fundraising events: Drink Red Wear Red in June and Dinner Under the Stars in October. There, the students worked with professional chefs from some of Denver’s top restaurants to prep and serve dishes throughout each event. Mia Angel of Adams City High School did such a great job that Keegan Gerhard, chef/owner of D Bar in Denver, asked her to come by his restaurant to apply for a job.

In Pueblo, East High School ProStart® students were introduced to plant-based Mediterranean cuisine in November through a live-streamed cooking class with renowned London chef/restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi. Janae Passalaqua, Colorado ProStart® instructor at East High School, shared that she’d never seen her students so excited by a cookbook. Ottolenghi sent an encouraging message to the kids about their future in the industry: “Cooking and serving food could be the most rewarding jobs in the world if you set out on the journey with the right kind of skill set and positive attitude. Enjoy the benefits of a solid early training, of loving ingredients and putting together exciting menus, and you are set for life.”

The Ottolenghi virtual cooking class was hosted by the Pueblo City-County Library, and Janae is working with the library to post the videos her students created of cooking selections from Ottolenghi’s book, Flavor.

The Colorado ProStart® Invitational Competition Is Back in 2022!

The Colorado ProStart® Invitational and Sysco Denver Hospitality Cup competition, taking place on February 23 and 24, 2022, at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, is one of the state’s biggest culinary arts and restaurant management competitions for high school students. Colorado ProStart® teachers and students begin planning, testing recipes, and building presentations several months in advance, and winning students can earn scholarships and the chance to compete in the National ProStart® Student Invitational.

We’re looking for judges for the culinary and restaurant management elements of the competition, so please contact us if you’re interested in being a judge. The time commitment includes attending an orientation and training, as well as the live competition. Judges selected will be provided with rules of the competition.

Colorado ProStart® instructors also need help from mentors and employers who can provide skills training, leadership, wisdom, and job opportunities for students. Classroom visits, field trips to your business, ongoing mentoring, and sponsorships of Colorado ProStart® Invitational competition teams are just a few of the ways to help.

Colorado ProStart® students completing their Certificates of Achievement must work 400 hours in foodservice- and hospitality-related jobs. Students have worked hard in the classroom and on the job to gain hard skills and professional certifications that make them valuable team members. Please contact us if you or someone on your team is interested in supporting Colorado ProStart®.

The CRF’s Lexi Nines (; 303-830-2972) is available to provide further details on Colorado ProStart® and all other CRF programs.

About the Colorado Restaurant Foundation

Established in 1987, the Colorado Restaurant Foundation (CRF) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and the philanthropic foundation of the Colorado Restaurant Association. The CRF’s mission is to train all individuals in the foodservice industry and those individuals entering the industry and provide health and wellness resources — including financial support — to industry employees.

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