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Sauk Rapids-Rice High School Sweeps ProStart Invitational

Joel Passewe, a student at Washington Technology Magnet School, won the knife skills competition which included taking home a set of chef knives. 

The 14th annual Minnesota ProStart Invitational, a culinary competition for high school students enrolled in ProStart programs, was completed just under the wire, March 12—before everything shut down due to COVID-19.

Winners of the local competition, sponsored by HospitalityMN, Sysco Minnesota and Ecolab, go on to compete with other high schools at the national level, currently scheduled for May 8 in Washington, D.C. Fourteen schools participated in the all-day event held at Sysco Minnesota’s facilities. Chef John Van House from Grand Casino was the lead judge.

The Invitational includes two areas of competition:

•Culinary: where teams of future foodservice professionals put their culinary knowledge and skills to the test. Teams have one hour to prepare a three-course meal and are judged on knife skills, teamwork, sanitation, presentation and taste. 

•Management: where teams demonstrate their knowledge of the hospitality industry by developing a business proposal for a new restaurant concept. They are judged on concept, menu/costing, operations, marketing and critical thinking. 

The Hospitality Minnesota Educational Foundation provides financial assistance to the winning teams to help defray some of the costs, including travel, to compete nationally.

The two teams that will go on to represent Minnesota in the finals are from Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, which won first place in both the culinary and management divisions, under the guidance of instructor Mary Levinski.

Winning culinary students were Carter Brutger, Eli Rudnick, Samah Tariq, Nathan Ford and alternate, Hillarie Markfort. The winning management team was Carter Brutger, Eli Rudnick, Hillarie Markfort and Chloe Thomas.

The second place team was Elk River High School, with instructor, Monique Sabby and students Kaden Odegaard, Sydney Wojcieszak, Audri Gunderson, Lainie Carlson and alternate, Talen Carlson.

Rogers High School, with instructor, Marissa Getty, took second place thanks to students Madi Claseman, Rachel Mackowick, Luke Behnke, Nathan Harmon and alternate, Katie Cunningham.

Roger High School’s culinary team took third place honors with the team of James Hayes, Riley Roden, Braden Wolf, Jacob Soder, and alternate, Gavin Theusch.

New this year was the “Best” in each of the following categories”

Teamwork Award: Elk River High School

Sanitation Skills Awards: Elk River High School

Professional Menu Design Award: Elk River High School

Essence of Taste Award: Elk River High School

Creative Plating Award: Pillager High School


The first-place management team is Sauk River-Rice High School with instructor Mary Lewinsky, far right. Team members are Carter Brutger, Eli Rudnick, Hillarie Markfort and Chloe Thomas.


First place culinary team, also from Sauk Rapids-Rice High School are Carter Brutger, Eli Rudnick, Samah Tariq, Nathan Ford and Hillarie Markfort. Instructor Mary Lewinsky is fourth from the left. 


Rogers High School took second place in management with instructor,  Marissa Getty, left, and team members Madi Claseman, Rachel Mackowick, Luke Behnke, Nathan Harmon and alternate, Katie Cunningham . (Not left to right) 


Elk River High School students who won second place in culinary are Kaden Odegaard, Sydney Wojcieszak, Audri Gunderson, Lainie Carlson and Talen Carlson, Alternate. Instructor is Monique Sabby, left.

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