This month, Open Arms of Minnesota hosted 16 talented chefs from The Hallway Café. These were no ordinary chefs however – they’re high school students participating in Elk River High School’s ProStart program, a two-year in-school program that helps develop early leaders in the restaurant and foodservice industry. Across the United States, more than 118,000 students at over 1,700 high schools participate in ProStart, paving the way for the next generation of talent.
Monique Sabby, Elk River’s advisor and chef, teaches students, helps guide the curriculum and connects students with some of the best professional chefs in the state and beyond.
“That’s how we met Chef Seth,” says Monique of Open Arms Executive Chef Seth Daugherty. “He’s really become a mentor for us.”
“I started working with Elk River High School and their ProStart program five years ago,” says Chef Seth. “I feel it is my responsibility to mentor the next generation of people in the hospitality industry. I am surely not the future of our industry, and if I am not doing everything I can to mentor the next generation of cooks, I am not doing enough.”
When Monique floated the idea of volunteering at Open Arms to the students, they went wild.
“They were so excited to give back and give to others,” she says.
“I’ve always loved to cook,” says Sydney, a senior at Elk River High School who has participated in the program for the last two years. “I thought maybe I would get a job in a restaurant in college to help me pay for tuition. Now I see I can have a career in the restaurant industry.”
Chef Seth sees the value in preparing young people for the restaurant industry as well.
“ProStart gives the students the skills and knowledge to enter the industry right out of high school,” he says. “I wish there was something like ProStart for me when I was young. What a great opportunity for these students.”
“I’ve always been involved in school,” says Morgan, also a senior at Elk River. “This way I get to talk to and interact with more people than I normally would. I’m also learning a lot about how the restaurant industry works.”
“It’s been so fun to volunteer and work with food that’s grown locally and know that it’s going to our community.”