Team South Carolina shines at National ProStart Invitational for seventh year in a row

May 8, 2024

Hosted by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF), Team South Carolina battled more than 400 competitors at the 2024 National ProStart Invitational in April at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. Anderson Career and Technology Center (ACTC) placed third in the Culinary Arts Competition, while Wando High School placed fourth in Restaurant Management.

Teams from 48 states battled in a weekend-long showdown that featured more than 400 students and a roster of top restaurant and foodservice industry judges. The National ProStart Invitational is the nation’s largest high school culinary and restaurant management contest. A fusion of “Chopped” and “Shark Tank,” it provides a platform for the students to compete for a share of scholarships totaling $200,000.

The event featured a show-stopping display of culinary talent and restaurant business acumen by over 90 of the country’s best and brightest high school teams from 48 states. All students competing in the National ProStart Invitational earned their place by winning their state-level ProStart Invitational competitions.

ACTC serves students from Belton-Honea Path, Palmetto, Powdersville, and Wren High Schools in the Anderson I & II School Districts. Wando High School is a large, public non-magnet high school serving students living in the Mt. Pleasant area of Charleston County School District.

Established in 1995 by the NRAEF, ProStart has equipped 1 million high school students to date with career ready culinary and restaurant management skills. Today, the program reaches nearly 165,000 students at almost 1,850 schools, who emerge ready to build a career in the restaurant and hospitality industry. South Carolina ProStart was introduced in 1999 and reaches 55 schools statewide.

“It’s inspiring to watch these students put so much of their hearts and souls into this competition and to know that the grit that got them here will be what propels their careers,” said Michelle Korsmo, president & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of the NRAEF. “These competitors represent what’s possible when the courage and creativity of young leaders is supported by educational programs like ProStart.”

The National ProStart Invitational is a high-stakes competition between some of the best culinary and restaurant management students in the country. Students on the culinary teams had 60 minutes to prepare a three course, fine dining menu, using only two butane burners and no running water. The management teams persuaded a panel of judges that their innovative restaurant business pitches had the chops to succeed in the real world.

ACTC’s menu consisted of Prosciutto-wrapped Manchester Farm’s quail served with smoked apple espuma and rye crumb, pickled gold beets, petite lettuce and balsamic beet sauce as a starter, and a coriander-rubbed New Zealand venison served with wilted Dandelion greens, butternut squash puree and hazelnut streusel, pan-roasted Maitake mushrooms and a sour cherry demi-glace to follow. They completed their menu with a ginger-accented pear mousse served with a walnut spice cake, Clemson Bleu Cheese ice cream and walnut tuile, poached pears and a raspberry port sauce.

Wando’s elegant, upscale restaurant concept, Southern Strides, focused on local sustainable seafood and building relationships with local vendors, fishermen, and purveyors to highlight the flavors and ingredients that the South has to offer.

More than 70 industry and post-secondary judges were on hand to select the winning teams. Students were evaluated on their uniform and professional appearance, teamwork, decision making ability, product taste, and overall menu appeal.

South Carolina’s Educator of Excellence nominee, Jay Hancock, will travel to the Educator of Excellence Awards Ceremony and ProStart professional development training this fall. Hancock, a ProStart instructor at G. Frank Russell Technology Center in Greenwood, is recognized for his passion for collaboration with other instructors and sharing of resources and best practices to help students achieve success in their respective programs.

Anderson Career and Technology Center: Isabella Downie, Ben Graham, Cooper Moore, Elizabeth Page, William Nelms, taught by Chris Moree

Wando High School: Ramell Bagtas, Cooper Stapleton, Sarah Dzielinski, taught by Molly Gordon


About the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association

For more than 75 years, the SCRLA’s mission has been to promote, protect and educate the foodservice and lodging industries of our state and to ensure positive business growth for our members. The SCRLA strives to represent the best interests of its members on small business issues, hospitality, and tourism concerns and towards the protection of South Carolina’s quality of life. Learn more at

About ProStart®

ProStart, a nationwide, two-year high school career and technical education program uniting the classroom and restaurant industry, reaches nearly 165,000 students at almost 1,850 high schools throughout all states, the District of Columbia and Guam. ProStart gives students a platform to discover and develop new interests and talents, while teaching employability skills like teamwork, professional behavior, time management and communication.

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

As the supporting philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF’s charitable mission includes enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development, and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to Attract, Empower, and Advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce. Learn more at