NHHS Culinary Team Honored by School and State

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The Newport Harbor High School culinary and management teams were officially honored by the state Assembly on Thursday for winning the nationwide culinary competition in April.

Assemblyman Don Wagner presented the school with an official resolution Thursday morning during a special assembly honoring the NHHS California ProStart student teams.

“It’s really a privilege and a pleasure to be here with you folks today,” Wagner said, “to recognize this superior accomplishment.”

The Newport Harbor culinary team won first place in both culinary and management categories in the 10th Annual National ProStart Culinary Invitational in Overland Park, Kan.

It is the first time in the competition’s history that the first place honors have both been awarded to the same school.

“After successfully sweeping the state competition we knew something special was happening in Newport Beach this year,” Alycia Harshfield, executive director of the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, said earlier this year. “We are so proud that they could display their tremendous talent on a national stage.”

“This [is a] special occasion [so] we can recognize your outstanding school and your culinary arts program,” Harshfield said at the assembly on Thursday.

The Newport Harbor teams are coached by the Culinary Arts teacher, Janet Dukes, and two local chefs.

Dukes traveled up to Sacramento and went on the floor before the state assembly for the resolution.

“Which, I will tell you frankly… That does not happen often,” the assemblyman said. “It was a real thrill to welcome her to the floor of the assembly and say thank you publicly in that venue.”

“It’s been exciting to be able to guide the students to achieve these great accomplishments,” Dukes said. “To have a chance though, to be recognized by our state of California, by our assemblyman on the floor, I don’t think there is anything that could compare with that feeling.”

Also in attendance at the assembly: NHHS principal Michael Vossen, who spoke about the program and introduced Wagner, Newport-Mesa Unified School District board of education President Walt Davenport, board member Karen Yelsey, NMUSD Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard and other school and restaurant association representatives.

“The assembly joins the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation in acknowledging and applauding the superb achievement of Newport Harbor High School ProStart teams in winning the culinary and management events at the 2011 National ProStart Invitational,” Wagner read off the resolution document.

The students competed against other high school teams from across the country from April 29 through May 1 at the Overland Park Convention Center.

The Newport kids competed against over 300 students in 76 teams from 41 states. They performed in front of over 800 students, educators, mentors, state restaurant executives and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation board members.

The students on the winnings teams include: Jessenia Hernandez, Luke Fischer, Jazmin Eck, Kelly Hackett, Kimberly Tessers, Kellyn Perham and Eliza Stubbing.

The ProStart program is designed to prepare high school juniors and seniors for careers in food service.

The CRA educational foundation has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships and grants since its inception in 1981. The group also works to enhance education and training programs within the hospitality industry.

“The California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is proud to have a partnership with Newport Harbor High School and we’re so honored to be a part of the lives of students here an to watch them go from intro to culinary to competing in our California state competition,“ Harshfield said. “And the unprecedented win at nationals was just outstanding. So all eyes are on California so they’ll be gunning for you when we go back to nationals in May!”

NHHS culinary arts teacher Janet Dukes (holding plaque) with the school's ProStart culinary students, California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Executive Director Alycia Harshfield (far left), Assemblyman Don Wagner (second from left) and NHHS principal Michael Vossen (right).


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