When Melinda Drogowski took the tour of the Lenawee Vo-Tech Center last year, she knew right then where she was headed.
Other members of Morenci’s sophomore class might not have been sure of their future, but for Melinda, the choice was clear. When she was able to enroll in Vo-Tech classes, she would choose the hospitality program to get a start on becoming a chef.
It turned out to be a good choice. It’s been hard work, but she’s had some great experiences, learned a lot about the culinary business and she has excelled.
From a class of more than 20 students, she was chosen as a member of both Vo-Tech teams that recently competed in the state-wide ProStart program—teams that came home with third and fourth place finishes among a field of 18 competitors.
ProStart, explained hospitality instructor Corbett Day, is a two-year program that gives students the culinary and management skills needed for a career in the restaurant and food service industry.
Those classroom skills are put to the test once a year in the Michigan Restaurant Association ProStart Student Invitational. The 2008 competition took place in Lansing’s Sheraton Hotel March 8-10.
This is where students have to show respect for each other, practice good teamwork and show good listening skills, said team member Alec Rummler of Adrian.
In addition to Mr. Day’s instruction, students worked with chef Frank Marrara of Americrown at Michigan International Speedway. The class visited the kitchen there to work alongside the pro.
At the Sheraton, teams of four students had one hour to prepare a meal. The Lenawee team went with pan-seared yellow fin tuna, wrapped in seaweed and accompanied by a wasabi-pea coulis and a red pepper sauce. A Mediterranean salad was also prepared.
The effort netted a fourth-place finish, but the management team—again with Melinda as a member—did even better. The quiz bowl participation and case study project resulted in a third-place finish. Each team member was promised a $500 scholarship to the highly-regarded Johnson & Wales University culinary school.
She would like to put that scholarship to use after a couple of years at Washtenaw Community College where she would get some basics covered.
Melinda is already looking forward to second year classes at Vo-Tech where students will dig into some finer points of cooking, such as spices and sauces—all in an independent study format.
“They’re getting a new kitchen next year so it’s going to be even better,” Melinda said.
She’s also looking forward to job possibilities after graduation when the Pro-Start program is complete.
Classes end each day at 2:15 p.m., but that was far from the end of the day for several students learning the culinary arts. But with the competition over for the year, maybe there won’t be so many late nights for the young chefs.