March 8, 2017

New Mexico High School Students Excel at the New Mexico ProStart Invitational
Santa Fe High and Cloudcroft High 
advance to the National ProStart Invitational

(Albuquerque, NM) The Hospitality Industry Education Foundation announced this week that it will send a culinary team from Santa Fe High and a management team from Cloudcroft High to compete in the 17th National ProStart Invitational. The teams will compete against 49 other qualifying teams from across the country for a chance to win the national title in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 28 through 30, 2017.

The two teams were the champions of the New Mexico ProStart competition held March 7 at the Santa Fe Convention Center.  It was an action-packed day!

Teams that place first at their state competition advance to the National ProStart Invitational in two categories – culinary and management.  The culinary competition highlights the creative abilities of each team through the preparation of a three-course meal in 60 minutes using only two butane burners.  Management teams develop a proposal for an original restaurant concept and apply critical thinking skills to challenges restaurant managers face in day-to-day operations.  The performance of teams in both the culinary and management events is observed and rated by expert judges from industry and academia.

Over 3.2 million in scholarships were awarded to the first, second, and third place winning teams from schools including The International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes, Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, Culinary Institute of America, Johnson and Wales, Kendall College, Louisiana Culinary Institute, New England Culinary Institute, Culinary Institute of Virginia, and New Mexico State University.

Taos High and Atrisco Heritage High took second and third in the culinary competition. Taos High and Sandia High took second and third in the management competition.

“ProStart is developing the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s industry leaders.  These students have proven their mettle in the New Mexico ProStart Invitational and have the full support of the New Mexico restaurant industry as they move forward,” said Victor J. Martinez, Education Director, Hospitality Industry Education Foundation.  “ProStart gives students a sense of purpose and helps them feel passionate about their own future – which will be on full display when the students represent New Mexico at the National ProStart Invitational.”

The culinary and management teams will be accompanied by their educators, Molly Lithgow and Joni Watson, respectively.  Culinary team members include Alondra Armenta, Shantel Cantu Esparza, Leslie Carillo Arias, Ashley Melgar, and Catalina Sandoval. Management team members include Giovanna Calderara, Marisol Paulik, Shane Hall, Diana Cook, and Kagen Watson. The New Mexico Restaurant Association, through its Hospitality Industry Education Foundation, supports over 1,900 students in 27 schools that are served by ProStart.  ProStart – the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s proven, high-impact program for high school students – reaches more than 140,000 students in 1,800 high schools across 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and U.S. military bases. It introduces them to the career opportunities available in the restaurant and foodservice industry, and teaches them the restaurant management and culinary arts skills needed to launch their futures.

Management Team:

Cloudcroft Management Team developed a full restaurant concept. Their “prototype” restaurant, “Mariana’s”.  The restaurant caters to weary travelers with a steampunk theme with modern, contemporary inspirations.  They presented the full concept in verbal and written competition to judges that are currently in the restaurant industry. They formulated a full business plan… from lighting and architectural layout details, to staffing, costing and pricing, and marketing and menu design.  The professional industry judges were incredibly impressed.

Santa Fe Culinary Team Menu:

Appetizer: Trout Tiradito with pickled jicama, shaved radishes, cilantro, habanero, nasturtium petals and deconstructed prickly pear vinaigrette

Entrée: Juniper crusted elk tenderloin with black currant gastrique, mushroom ravioli in sage brown butter, crispy wild mushrooms, and wilted spinach.

Dessert: Honey Lavender Panna Cotta

Team was also judged on menu planning, pricing, food safety, knife skills, and plating.

Photo Information

Photo attached has Winning Culinary team in White, Winning Management team in Black, accepting awards from Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales.  Additional photos available by contacting Dionne Wright-Bower with NMRA at


About the New Mexico Restaurant Association:

The New Mexico Restaurant Association’s mission is to empower the food and beverage industry by promoting and protecting common values and interests. It has more than 1,000 members in 111 cities across New Mexico, who join together for meetings, seminars and the hospitality industry awards to honor the industry’s top achievers. It has actively represented and promoted the food service industry in New Mexico since 1946.  For more information on NMRA, visit

About HIEF:

The Hospitality Industry Education Foundation (HIEF) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to fulfilling the educational mission of the New Mexico Restaurant Association. In addition to administering the ProStart Program, HIEF awards scholarships to students pursuing a degree in the hospitality industry. To learn more about HIEF programs call 1-800-432-0740.

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation:

As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF exists to enhance the restaurant industry’s service to the public through education, community engagement and promotion of career opportunities. The NRAEF works to attract, develop and retain a career-oriented professional workforce for the restaurant industry. The restaurant and foodservice industry comprises 980,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 13 million employees, making it one of the nation’s largest employers. For more information on the NRAEF, visit

About Prostart:

ProStart is a two-year educational program supported by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation in partnership with state restaurant associations. The career-building program blends classroom learning with mentored work experience to teach high school students the management and culinary skills needed for a career in the restaurant and foodservice industry. When students meet academic standards, complete a checklist of competencies, and work at least 400 hours in the industry, they are awarded the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement that signifies they are well qualified to enter the industry workforce. For more information on the ProStart program, visit or find us on Twitter or Facebook.