Student chefs from all over Louisiana compete for $1.2 million in scholarships

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - The 14th Annual Louisiana Seafood ProStart Student Invitational is a two-day culinary competition at the convention center downtown.

This is the future of the restaurant industry, hundreds of ProStart students fired up about food and ready to showcase their sharpened skills before some of the toughest judges in the biz. "They create a menu and then they have to execute the menu and the center of the plate is Louisiana seafood because they're our partner in this. You know we've got so many culinary programs and culinary entertainment programs in the media today and that inspires a lot of these kids to give it a try," says Stan Harris, CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

"We get to meet and network and meet all these awesome chefs and mentors and teachers and these kids and other high school kids are doing what you're doing so it's really cool just to see what other schools are doing and challenge yourself," says Hunter Trahan, senior at Lakeshore High School in Mandeville. These students work year round for this competition perfecting their culinary and restaurant management skills.

"Team building skills, communication, how to write, how to do presentations, things they might not normally get in a classroom setting, but they get this in a collaborative setting," says Harris.

"If you're going into the industry it's awesome to have ProStart because you're going and you know your knife kits, your cuts, you know how to fabricate a chicken and you know the basic essentials so they don't have to train you on the little things they can start you at a higher position and you don't necessarily have to start as low," says Trahan.

With over 1.2 million dollars in scholarships for the taking, these teams aren’t just competing for crown of the kitchen but cold hard cash, the key to unlock the door to a higher education and solid future in the culinary arts. "I mean going to college is expensive, we all know that and I'm going to college for culinary and it is not cheap so the scholarships really, really help. These schools want you to go to their school and they want to teach you and help you learn and everything so every dollar counts," says Trahan.

"That's what this is about, we get to do our passion when it comes to food, we get to do our passion serving others but the real cool thing is we have a great pantry of things to serve here in Louisiana," says Harris.

The winning teams will go on to represent Louisiana in Anaheim, California during the National ProStart Invitational in April.