Benjamin Williams graduated from high school in 2011. Today he's head chef at Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery in Puyallup, Wash. ProStart gave me the skills and resources to go this far in such a short period of time, he says. I'm only 22 and running a kitchen.
Williams expresses his joy in working with the Washington ProStart management team. He says that it feels good to give back and be someone the students can go to with career questions. It's a humbling experience. I think I learn as much from them as they do from me.
Another former ProStart student, Luke Cornelius, mentors the Arizona culinary team. Representing Arizona is especially meaningful for his students, because this is the first time in eight years a team has represented the state at the National ProStart Invitational.
This industry has endless opportunities, he says. One of the students on his team is planning on going to school for finance and accounting and expressed sadness to be leaving foodservice behind. When Cornelius explained to her she could use those same skills in the restaurant industry and combine her two passions it was like a light bulb went off for her.
Cornelius, who is currently finishing college, working at Chili's and as a consultant, explains he never thought he'd be where he is now. I think one of the most important things for young people to realize is that they don't have to know what they want to do right now. It's OK to be unsure.
Both Williams and Cornelius plan to continue mentoring ProStart students in years to come and encourage other graduates to get involved.
These kids are the future of our industry, says Cornelius. Whatever they want to do, if they love food they can make it happen here.