Cooks from Battle Mountain bring home silver |

Cooks from Battle Mountain bring home silver

Scott N. Miller
The Battle Mountain High School's Prostart team placed second in a national culinary competition in Orlando. From left: Andrea Knight, Evan Eves, Matt Thompson and Brendan Russell and teacher Sharon Weisman.

Missing the prom isn’t such a big deal if it means coming home with a suitcase full of scholarship money.

A quartet of Battle Mountain High School students recently packed a handful of crates with food, cookware, utensils and food for a trip to Orlando, Fla. for the national championship competition for the “ProStart” program. They came home with a second-place finish and the above-mentioned load of scholarships.

The restaurant-industry sponsored ProStart program teaches high school students about business management and other elements of the business, but students compete for scholarship money by cooking gourmet meals.

Last year’s team came home with a second-place finish as well, but this year’s squad faced more competition. Teams from 27 states flocked to Orlando to cook their best meal for two and have a little fun besides.

“We got to do Universal Studios and they had a dance for us at the Hard Rock Cafe,” senior Matt Thompson said.

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Thompson, fellow seniors Brendan Russell and Evan Eves and junior Andrea Knight were in Orlando for five days, along with teacher Sharon Weisman and most of the kids’ parents. There was a little time for relaxation, but not a lot.

“We were pretty nervous,” Thompson said.

The hard work paid off, though. Under the direction of Paul Frezacca, the owner and head chef at LaTour restaurant in Vail, the team had worked since January on a meal of Waldorf salad, hazelnut-crusted venison loin with a sweet potato cake and a dessert of Grand Marnier crepe soufflé.

The team earned high marks for sanitation, presentation, teamwork and other objective elements, but was downgraded by the judge who tasted the meal.

“Everything we could control we did great on,” Weisman said. “They just did an amazing job. They’re the only team that placed last year that placed again this year.”

That job well done will help pay for a big chunk of college for the teammates.

Just from the national competition, each student has earned $7,000 per year in scholarships to any school the students choose. Each of the students also received a $4,000 scholarship to Johnson & Wales University or Kendall University in Chicago, culinary schools.

That total doesn’t count the scholarships earned at the state championship in March, or the scholarships the students might yet be eligible for. Competition in ProStart also gives some students a leg up on college.

Russell, who wants to attend Kendall, said the school called in March and asked him to re-take his ACT test. After the competition, the school called and said, in essence, “never mind.” Thompson recently learned he won’t have to take a class on kitchen sanitation because of his participation in the program.

In the end, was it worth missing the prom? All four students nodded “yes.”

“It was way more fun than prom,” Thompson said. “Not many people can say they did what we did.”

Scholarships scored

Finishing second in the national ProStart competition means more than glory to the team from Battle Mountain High School, although the glory’s good, too. But scholarships are better. Here’s what the team earned for its second place finish:

• $3,500, renewable annually, from Coca-Cola, good at any school

• $3,500, renewable annually, from ProStart, good at any school

• $4,000, renewable annually, from Johnson & Wales University

• $4,000, renewable annually, from Kendall University in Chicago

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