HAVERHILL -- Culinary students from Whittier Tech took home the top prize in a statewide competition showcasing the talent of aspiring chefs and restaurateurs. The team of four designed and presented a restaurant they named “Not a Diner”, and scored first place in the restaurant management division of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's Massachusetts ProStart Student Invitational.
The four Haverhill seniors and their teacher Cathie Baines will travel to Dallas, TX April 29 - May 1 to represent Massachusetts in the National ProStart Invitational, where they will compete against 42 other teams. In addition to moving on, the students were awarded more than $30,000 in college scholarships to support their future culinary educations. During the competition, an all-day event at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall with a live audience, student teams performed in two areas – culinary arts and management. The culinary team from Whittier also scored high, placing second behind Madison Park Technical High School.
Culinary students had to show their knife skills prior to preparing a three-course meal in one hour. Each culinary team created their own recipes, as well as analyzed costing and menu pricing. On the management side, teams were required to develop a new restaurant concept proposal that included defining the concept, developing the menu and creating a marketing plan which included a written proposal, verbal presentation and the visual display.
Whittier’s team was inspired by the movie Grease, which is coincidentally the play Whittier Tech’s Drama Department chose for this year’s Spring Musical. (March 18-20). “I wanted to create a place where I and other teenagers would want to go to,” said Darlene Del Orbe, a team member. For starters, “Not a Diner” is not a morning place, since teenagers would rather sleep in, she said. “It’s not your typical diner. We serve lunch and dinner and we have a retro and vintage décor that is huge in pop culture right now.” The place would practically market itself, she said, since teens take photos of anything retro and vintage and post them on social media.
The restaurant design also features a soda fountain and menu items are organized into three categories: Retro Bytes, Sensory Overload and Wii Fight It. Their proposal’s welcome page reads: “Not a Diner” invites you to experience the past, live in the present, and think abut the future. “Where are we going again?” is not only our slogan, it’s also a question of what the future has to hold. Rounding out the Whittier team were Jannelyz Rodriguez, Nikolas Kedian, and Maiya Marinez.
For these students, the future is in Dallas. “It’s exciting,” said Kedian. “It’s amazing to be able to represent your state.”
To prepare for the state competition, the team met at school with their Instructors Cathie Baines and Bill Yameen every day during February break and spent dozens of hours after school and on weekends working on their design concept and culinary skills. Students on Whittier’s culinary team were: Juniors Gabe Cameron and Izaya Croswell and seniors Emely Cepeda, and Tatum Corrente.
Judging the competition were well-known chefs and restaurateurs from around the state. Taking part were Boston's Andy Husbands, chef-ower, Tremont 647 in Boston's South End, Nick Calias, executive chef, Brasserie Jo and the Colonnade Hotel, Boston, Jose Duarte, chef-owner of Taranta Restaurant in the city's North End, Remon Karian, owner and president, Fiorella’s, Newtonville, MA and Pat Bando, associate vice president of Boston College Auxiliary Services.
At the Massachusetts Restaurant Association's Educational Foundation, Director Stacy Sawyer said students worked "incredibly hard preparing for the PSI. The students and teachers spend many hours practicing, including after school, on weekends and during school vacations. We are very proud of all of our schools competing and are so happy for Madison Park and Whittier.”