Culinary Students Earn Top Honors at State Culinary Competition

Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Berkmar High School Culinary students and Meadowcreek High School’s Culinary Management team earned top honors during the Georgia ProStart® State Invitational (GPSI) competition. Chef Phillip Garrett of Grayson Technical Education Program was also named the Georgia ProStart Educator of the Year after the competitionfor his demonstrated excellence in the classroom.

GPSI is a statewide culinary and hospitality management team competition where students compete for scholarships and the right to represent the state of Georgia at the 2024 National ProStart Invitational (NPSI).

Berkmar High School sophomores Kim Sy, Damaris Diaz, Dulce Rosas, Cynthia Gutierrez, and freshman Nghi Phan placed first in Culinary Arts. Teams were required to assemble a three-course meal in one hour without electricity or water. This is the second time in Berkmar High’s culinary program history that its team won the state title. It also won last year.

“This is another huge accomplishment for Berkmar Culinary,” Berkmar Culinary Instructor James Bryant shares. “It’s always tough to win in this ProStart competition because the judging is so subjective, but our team put on an amazing performance under extreme pressure conditions. Now, many of the students in the school are becoming more interested in Berkmar Culinary, so the process of preparing is becoming more competitive at the school level.”

Meadowcreek High’s Culinary Management Team, comprised of Rehan Tariq (10th grade), Jesus Lopez-Rios (11th grade), and Georges Djrogbo (12th grade), were required to develop a proposal for the next promising restaurant concept and present it to industry judges.

“Georges, Rehan & Jesus, all leaders in so many student organizations, found ways to multitask and manage their time efficiently,” says Jay Richardson, Meadowcreek High’s culinary arts instructor. “They collaborated on written parts through cloud computing and shared videos of their individual spoken parts using virtual technology. When they had in-person meetings, their cohesion was seamless as they fed off each other’s energy and collective confidence. They took an unconventional and deeply personal approach to the delivery of their presentation, which paid off for the state win.”

Supporting students and encouraging them to excel takes commitment from dedicated instructors like Culinary Instructor Chef Garrett, who was humbled to receive this year’s Georgia ProStart Educator of the Year Award.

“I love what I do,” he shares. “Teaching these students a craft or life skill that I have learned over the past 30 years is fulfilling.”

The Berkmar and Meadowcreek High School teams qualified to represent Georgia at the National ProStart® State Invitational in Baltimore, MD, on April 26-28. They will join over 92 teams nationwide to vie for top high school culinary and restaurant management honors and almost $200,000 in scholarships to support their future restaurant and hospitality industry aspirations.