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Nearly $1.5 Million in Scholarships Awarded to Hospitality Students at Texas ProStart Invitational

Winning teams to compete at National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore, Maryland this April 

WACO, Texas
 (March 10, 2024) – This past weekend, more than 500 high school students from across Texas came together to compete in the 2024 Texas ProStart Invitational, presented by Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, at the Waco Convention Center. The 14th annual event featured more than 55 teams of aspiring young chefs and restaurateurs competing in the management competition, where students create and present an original restaurant concept, and the culinary competition, where students prepare a three-course meal in under 90 minutes. To create more opportunities for students to compete this year, culinary teams registered for either the “nationals track” or the “lone star state track.” In addition, individual students battled it out in 11 competitions showcasing everything from knife skills to pastry technique.   


Student teams from Ben Barber Innovation Academy in Mansfield, Texas took first place in both the management and culinary nationals track competitions this year, earning their spot to represent Texas in the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore, Maryland. Every student who competed during the weekend received a scholarship worth at least $1,500 from the Texas Restaurant Foundation, with the top three teams in each competition receiving an additional scholarship from the nearly $1.5 million total. (For a complete list of winners see below).

“When you see these young people work together and compete, you know the future is bright for the Texas restaurant industry,” said Heather Pickett, director of the Texas Restaurant Foundation. “Texas ProStart is the Texas Restaurant Foundation’s signature program, giving high school students a clear path to a rewarding, purpose-filled career in the foodservice industry. This weekend’s invitational was a terrific showcase of our students’ talent, and we’re very grateful to every student, educator, parent, sponsor, partner and volunteer who made it a success.”

Panels of industry experts evaluate culinary teams on knife skills, teamwork, safety and sanitation and taste and menu development, with a focus on recipes and cost. Similarly, expert judges consider management teams’ menu preparation, staff forecasting, marketing plans, as well as the students’ ability to apply critical thinking to address everyday challenges such as supply chain fluctuations, employee policy violations and social media policies. 

Texas ProStart is the leading culinary arts and hospitality management program in the state, preparing over 27,000 students across 250 high schools for rewarding careers in the restaurant and foodservice industry. To learn more about Texas ProStart and the Texas Restaurant Foundation, visit

2024 Texas ProStart Invitational winners and finalists:

(First place team advances to National ProStart Invitational)
1st Place: Ben Barber Innovation Academy, Mansfield, TX
2nd Place: Robert Turner College & Career High School, Pearland, TX
3rd Place: Pasadena High School, Pasadena, TX

1st Place: Waller High School, Waller, TX
2nd Place: Dan Dipert Career and Technical Center, Arlington, TX
3rd Place: Glenda Dawson High School, Pearland, TX
(First place team advances to National ProStart Invitational)
1st Place: Ben Barber Innovation Academy, Mansfield, TX
2nd Place: Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy, Rockwall, TX
3rd Place: West Mesquite High School, Mesquite, TX

Individual Competitions

Stuffed…Build A Better Burrito 
Create a better burrito without using a traditional tortilla
Kaden Walker, Ben Barber Innovation Academy, Mansfield, TX
Real Food Break, Sponsored by Chipotle
Make an afternoon snack using only items from Chipotle’s 53 fresh ingredients
Andrea Garner, Milby High School, Houston, TX

Spiced, Sponsored by Nolan Ryan Brands
Create a spice rub with a name and logo, then use it on ground beef
Aayden Washington, John Horn High School, Mesquite, TX
Mocktail Mixology, Sponsored by Coca-Cola
Make a refreshing drink using Topo Chico and items from the market table
Ella Carrasco, Brazoswood High School, Clute, TX
Tablescapes: Set the Table-Maximalist, Sponsored by Premier Event Rentals
Design a maximalist themed dinner table for two
Baylie Brauher, Lapoynor Secondary, Larue, TX
Amuse Me: Create an Amuse-Bouche
Express a big idea in a small bite
Edgar Pena, Dr. Kirk Lewis Career and Technical High School, Houston, TX
Knife Skills, Sponsored by Zwilling
Utilize knife skills and creativity to reimagine an existing plate
Alexa Estevez, Mesquite High School, Mesquite, TX
Make an alternative to the standard side dish using couscous
Margarita Reyes, Milby High School, Houston, TX
Tablescapes: Design on the Fly, Sponsored by Premier Event Rentals
Use the design elements provided to set an exquisite table for two
Kimora Cargill, Tom Glenn High School, Leander, TX 
Hannah Vasquez, Sam Rayburn High School, Pasadena, TX
Pastry: Pow, Bang!
Use comic or cartoon influences to design and decorate a cake
Tyra Clark, Mesquite High School, Mesquite, TX

Pastry: Skills & Technique
Show off five popular cake decorating techniques
Julia Mathew, Miller Career and Technology Center, Katy, TX

Established in 1994 by the Texas Restaurant Association, the Texas Restaurant Foundation (TRF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to building and maintaining a strong professional foodservice workforce in Texas. Leveraging the latest skills, tools, and certifications, the TRF creates pathways of opportunity for one of the state’s largest and most diverse industries. The organization’s flagship program is Texas ProStart, an industry-based, two-year high school culinary arts and restaurant management program that reaches more than 27,000 students across 250 high schools in Texas. The TRF also supports restaurants in times of crisis; for example, in 2020, the TRF established the TX Restaurant Relief Fund to raise and distribute more than $3.5 million to support over 800 independent restaurants and their employees through the COVID-19 pandemic.