Santa Fe, New Mexico – March 9, 2020 – The Hospitality Industry Education Foundation (HIEF) has announced the winners from the 18th Annual New Mexico ProStart Invitational. Taos High School’s Culinary Team and Management Team will be on their way to Nationals this May 8 through 10 in Washington DC. The teams will compete against other state winners from across the country for their chance to win the title of National Champions!

The two teams competed for their titles today at the New Mexico ProStart Invitation held on March 8, 2020 at the Santa Fe Convention Center. It was an action-packed day!

Atrisco Heritage Academy and Eldorado High School took second and third in the culinary competition, respectively. Deming High School and Gadsden High School took second and third in the management competition.

The Hospitality Cup is awarded to the team with the highest combined scores in both Management and Culinary Competitions. Taos High School took home the 2020 Hospitality Cup. Taos High teams competed in honor and memory of their late mentor, Benjie Apodaca, who passed in July 2019.

Management Winners
–High School: Taos
Competitors: Aedin Miller, Makayla Montoya, Jordan Montoya, Miel Tafoya
Manager: Arianna Montoya
Instructor: Adam Medina, Jr.

Culinary Winners
– High School: Taos
Competitors: Liam Davis, Benito Martinez, Santiago Tafoya, Emily Thomas
Manager: Alimar Espinoza-Sack
Instructor: Adam Medina, Jr.

Taos High School developed a restaurant concept from start to finish, including marketing,costing, and menu planning. They designed and envisioned a fine dining establishment called “Elements of Flavor” inspired by the cooking styles and preparation of molecular gastronomy. Their custom concept was judged by professional managers, chefs, and restaurant owners from across New Mexico.

Taos High’s culinary menu included an appetizer of an Asian glazed pork belly tostada. Their entree was a pan seared duck breast paired with a sweet potato puree, honey glazed carrots, charred pearl onions and a cranberry demi glaze. Dessert included an avocado mousse atop a coconut crust with a pistachio crumble and a blackberry rum sauce. ProStart participants get access to scholarships and college credit to over 60 post-secondary schools. Today’s winners will have access to over 1 million dollars of tuition and assistance for their 4 year degree.

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.

The 2020 ProStart Educator of the Year was Veronica Garcia from Chaparral High School.

Carol Wight, the CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association is proud of the industry’s Support and involvement in the ProStart program. For the past 18 years, New Mexico ProStart has showcased the best of the best in high school students interested in the industry. “Not only do these young adults get the opportunity to show off the skills they’ve learned at both the State and National levels, but they have spent these years partnering with educators and mentors that are shaping them to be the future workforce of New Mexico’s hospitality industry”, explains Ms. Wight.

In the 2019-2020 academic year, the New Mexico Restaurant Association is working with over 36 high schools across the state to introduce over 2800 students to career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality foodservice industries through the ProStart program. Nationally, ProStart is taught in more than 1800 schools and reaches nearly 140,000 students in the United States, Guam and Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Europe and Asia.