Aspiring High School Chefs Get a Head Start at JWU Charlotte ProStart Boot Camp

JWU Charlotte hosts a ProStart culinary boot camp for aspiring high school chefs.

Taiya Barnett says she’s torn between going to college for forensic science or culinary arts. That is why the Asheville High School 11th grader attended the recent ProStart Competition Skills Boot Camp held at JWU Charlotte’s College of Culinary Arts. “This will make my decision easier as to what school I want to go to. Culinary is a passion for me.”

The Boot Camp helped prepare 135 students and teachers for the 2019 North Carolina ProStart Invitational, the state’s premier competition for high school culinary arts and hospitality students. The state-level winners will move on to the National ProStart Invitational.

“JWU does such a great job teaching the fundamentals. You have 10 faculty and student teaching assistants helping in each culinary lab,” said Mandy Hines, North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) director of hospitality education. “The students feel more prepared. The coaches — many of whom aren’t culinarians — are more confident.”

Kaegan Parks, a senior at T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, plans to attend JWU after she graduates, and was delighted to be in the kitchen practicing knife skills. “It’s cool to be able to relate to a student who’s in college. A lot of them have done competition before. They give good advice about what I need to be doing, both for college and competition.”

Maddie Watson ’18 is a JWU senior and teaching assistant who helped the students with their knife skills and cutting pasta. “It felt great,” Watson said. “This is my calling. I liked interacting with them; it really made me happy because I want to be a culinary instructor after I graduate. I remember looking up to college students when I was in high school!” The best advice she kept reinforcing to the high school students? “Be organized with your ingredients and clean as you go!”

Andrew Fitch, a senior at Smithfield-Selma Senior High School, says he was thrilled knowing he would be working with “real chefs from JWU.” He hopes to transfer to JWU after he earns his associate degree elsewhere. “This boot camp is helping me with some ways of baking I’ve never heard of before. I’m not baking like I’m used to!”

“We were working on French-style restaurant production, like custards,” said JWU Associate Instructor Ellen Duke. “We were also making garnishes and plated desserts — things high schoolers probably aren’t used to doing.”

JWU and ProStart bring the classroom and industry together, helping both teachers and students discover new interests and talents.

High School students learning culinary skills in JWU culinary lab.

High School students learning culinary skills in JWU culinary lab.