When nearly 400 high school students came together in Providence, R.I., for the 2018 National ProStart Invitational (NPSI) – a culinary and restaurant management skills competition – they expected to cook up some delicious meals and create bold restaurant plans, contending for a share of NPSI’s $200,000 in scholarships.

They weren’t expecting to also receive industry advice from TV personality Ted Allen.

Host of the Food Network’s “Chopped” and author of In My Kitchen, Allen was the surprise keynote speaker at NPSI’s opening ceremony and later offered tailored advice to aspiring restaurant industry leaders in a “Share-a-Coke” session, sponsored by NPSI-partner Coca-Cola.

Allen answered students’ questions, dispensing career advice and reinforcing the value of a culinary education. He spoke to the value of building friendships in the midst of competition, and of appreciating opportunities as they arise.

“A lot of you are going to walk out of here changed,” Allen explained. “A lot of you are going to walk out of here with scholarship money in your pocket. And even the ones that don’t get that, I know this experience is going to be with you the rest of your lives.”

Ted Allen

National Restaurant Association Education Foundation

The program not only gives scholarships to award winners; it also offers students exposure to industry leaders, offering an unprecedented opportunity for high schoolers to delve into culinary and restaurant management curriculums and a national forum to demonstrate their skills. Many of the world’s top restaurant and foodservice companies along with more than 17 colleges and universities attend NPSI to see the next generation of talent in action.

As a founding partner of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) – the organization behind NPSI and the ProStart program ­– The Coca-Cola Company is proud to support the future of the industry.

“Coca-Cola is thrilled to support ProStart,” said Joel Neuman, director of industry affairs, Coca-Cola North America. “We recognize that we are only as strong as the communities we serve. And it’s hard to think of a better way to strengthen our communities than to support ProStart’s work in fostering and promoting the many employment opportunities available in the restaurant industry.”

This year, Coca-Cola North America increased their scholarship contribution to NPSI winners from $80,000 to $100,000, granting $60,000 to the first-place winners and $40,000 to the second-place winners.

Check out the 2018 winners here.

NRAEF

National Restaurant Association Education Foundation