VAIL - A local restaurant manager decided a high school culinary team should know what fine dining looks like from the back of the house to the front.
Elway's Steakhouse in Vail is hosting a fundraiser for Eagle Valley High School's ProStart team.
"Jim Lay, from Elway's, offered to give our students a fine dining experience. It was a god send. I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to raise the funds for something like this," said Elizabeth Dilley, Eagle Valley's ProStart coach and teacher.
Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain high schools both have successful ProStart programs.
Lay is also hosting a silent auction fundraiser with the dinner. The money will help Eagle Valley upgrade some of the aging equipment that's part of the school's foods and nutrition classes and its ProStart program.
Elway's is making dinner free for the students and cheap for the rest of us. Parents and school administration types can dine for $40 a plate. It'll cost the rest of us $60 a plate.
ProStart is a two-year culinary program taught in high schools around the country, sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. Students who complete the program are eligible for scholarships and other opportunities. ProStart combines an industry-driven curriculum, competitions and networks with local restaurants.
Eagle Valley has 23 kids in this year's ProStart class. They had two sections last year, but this year had to combine it into one class because of budget cuts. Even at that they had to turn some kids away, Dilley said.
ProStart programs in local high schools work with Johnson and Wales and other culinary schools. If kids learn as much as they're supposed to, they can test out of introductory classes, the same as they would in classes such as math, English or art.
Dilley's art background is in creating and teaching studio art. She wandered off to New Zealand, where she taught adult culinary classes, and she has always had jobs in fine dining.
When a combined foods and art position popped up, she jumped on it.
One of her students is Sam Lay, Jim Lay's daughter. Dilley was bouncing fundraising ideas off her students one day when a light went off in Sam's head.
Sam went home and talked to her dad and came back to school telling Dilley, "My dad wants to talk to you about hosting the fine dining experience."
"It has turned out to be such a blessing," Dilley said.