On Monday, March 11, students from more than half a dozen Career and Technical Education (CTE) Centers will compete in the NH ProStart State Invitational at the Executive Court Banquet Facility in Manchester.

During the culinary portion of the competition, participating teams demonstrate their creative abilities through the preparation of a three-course meal in 60 minutes with just two butane burners and no access to running water or electricity.

Madison Allan, a senior at Pinkerton Academy who competed at last year’s event and will be there this year, too, described the experience as “pretty tense.”

“Seeing the other competitors can be unnerving, but you want to feel confident going in,” she said. “Going first or last is also a little scary because all the judges are focusing on you.”

During the restaurant management competition, students will design their own restaurant in ProStartville and present to a group of judges their concept, menu and costing, marketing, critical thinking and operations.

For Allan and her teammates, the pressure is especially heavy, as Pinkerton Academy has won the competition two years running.

“Everyone is looking at you to fail, but I feel we are prepared to go in to defend our title for the third year in a row,” she said.

For Allan, the competition and the ProStart program itself is more than a great experience; rather, it is a springboard for her future. After graduation, she hopes to attend UMass Amherst for Hospitality and Tourism management. She also plans to work in a restaurant or hotel during school to learn more about the industry.

“ProStart has taught me a lot of skills like handling tasks under pressure,” she said. “Personally, I do better under pressure, and I feel that’s very important to have in this industry because you’re dealing with people daily. This can help me excel in whatever job I have in the future. It’s actually helped me at my current job many times.”

Amie Pariseau of the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association said Allan’s experience is representative of what takes place in ProStart.

“ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-world educational opportunities and builds practical skills and a foundation that will last a lifetime,” she said. “By bringing together the industry and the classroom, ProStart gives students a platform to discover new interests and talents to open doors for fulfilling careers.”

The annual statewide competitions as well as ones at the national level, she said, help set “a high standard of excellence for students and the industry.”

“Students who have completed the requirements of the ProStart program are awarded an industry-recognized certificate,” she added. “To earn the certificate, students pass two national exams, demonstrate a mastery of foundational skills and work 400 mentored hours.”

Aside from technical skills, Allan cited a more practical outcome from the program.

“The best part of being part of Prostart is obviously learning and utilizing different skills, like efficiency and organization, but most importantly making friends,” she said. “I met a lot of great people the last two years and still keep in touch with some of them.”

As for her thoughts on the competition in March, Allan said she is confident, but did admit some nerves, too.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say I still feel pretty nervous,” she said. “Anything could happen that you can’t plan for and that’s the scary part. Hopefully at the end, we put up some awesome plates that amazes the judges.”