Southern California Teams Take Top Honors at Statewide Culinary Competition

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Hosts Fifth Annual Event

Sacramento, Calif. – March 2 and 3, students from two Southern California high schools claimed victory at the fifth annual California ProStart® Culinary Competition, organized by the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (CRAEF) and the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. The event, which is separated into two categories of competition, pitted nine schools from across the state in a battle of skill and knowledge. Teams were awarded points on specific criteria including proper cooking procedures, safety and sanitation, presentation, product taste and teamwork.

The first-place winners in the culinary competition were Alex Gonzales, Steve Smeets, Cody McDonald and Tyler Wolk from Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach. The first-place team in the management competition was from La Quinta High School in La Quinta and included Brittany de Coster, Samantha Gaag and Ruby Rios.

“These students showed tremendous skill and expertise under pressure and should be proud of this great accomplishment,” said Stella Premo, Executive Director for CRAEF. “The ProStart® curriculum, along with the support of family, teachers and mentors, is helping produce the next generation of restaurant and foodservice professionals.”

The Newport Harbor team will now represent California at the National ProStart® Student Invitational culinary competition, a rigorous battle among students who placed first in their respective states’ culinary competitions. State teams will showcase their skills through the preparation of a meal consisting of a salad, protein (such as meat, fish or fowl), a starch, a vegetable and a cold or flambé dessert. The competition is expected to intensify as judges from leading post-secondary colleges and universities across the country will rate the various contestants. Students on the La Quinta team will compete in the national event’s management competition.

Both events are scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, from Friday, April 20 to Sunday, April 22, and will feature student teams from across the country.

To learn more about the culinary competition and the ProStart® program in California, please visit or call 800.765.4842.