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ProStart Gives Budding Chefs, Entrepreneurs Head Start

Whittney Evans
Damin Floyd and Abby Raff bake chocolate-chip muffins.

Utah lawmakers turned their attention to the high school career and technical program ProStart this year. They debated whether to fund a reality TV cooking show where ProStart students compete for a scholarship.

At Westlake High School, seniors Damin Floyd, Abby Raff and Hunter Weston are baking simple chocolate chip muffins. But don’t be fooled. Raff can whip up some sophisticated grub.  

“Last year we got to make an apple gelée, which is a type of tart almost with a pie crust base and apples and then a glaze and it was really pretty,” Raff says.

The ProStart curriculum is designed by professionals working in the restaurant industry. And it’s a huge commitment for students, says teacher Candace Wilson. She says they have to complete two full years of basic cooking classes before they can even apply for the program.

“It’s the cream of the crop,” Wilson says. “They’re the ones who are really passionate about the food industry.”

Wilson has taken her students on cross country trips to compete in national championships and local competitions. Damin Floyd auditioned for and was chosen to compete on the TV show ProStart Teen Chef Masters

“I’m super satisfied because I see a lot of high school students really kind of float through high school,” Floyd says. “And I think this gives us a really big opportunity to have such a head start.”

ProStart students do more than cook. They have to design entire restaurant concepts, everything from menus to marketing. Hunter Weston says she prefers that side of the program.

“I feel like somebody has to be the chef and learn how to make it, but without someone to run a restaurant there is no reason for a chef,” Weston says.

In a special session Wednesday, state lawmakers put $275,000 into the ProStart Teen Chef Masters television show after Governor Gary Herbert rejected that funding earlier this year by way of a veto. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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