Program a full plate for future chefs

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: From back left: Harrington Raceway and Casino COO of Hospitality Hank Rosenberg, Lake Forest High School Principal Theodora White. Lake Forest School District Superintendent Brenda Wynder, Lake Forest School District Director of Human Resources Travis Moorman, State Representative Bobby Outten, Front Row: Delaware Restaurant Association CEO Carrie Leishman, Lake Forest High School students Janaie Thomas and Cassandra Broadhurst, Lake Forest High School Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Kelly Haugh, Lake Forest High School students Collin Tunnell and Zietara Fields and President of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, Judy Diogo. (Submitted photo)

HARRINGTON — Harrington Raceway and Casino hosted and sponsored a group of food and beverage professionals, students and influential members of the community on Feb. 23 for a dinner and information session aimed to increase awareness and garner support for local students pursuing a culinary career path.

The event was held in Bonz, the casino’s dining venue where a group of approximately 40 gathered to learn more about the Delaware Restaurant Association-administered Pro-Start program, that has brought together food and beverage employees at Harrington Raceway and Casino with interested youth in the Lake Forest school district.

Several students at Lake Forest are currently enrolled in Pro-Start, a nationwide two-year high school program that unites the classroom and industry to develop restaurant and food service leaders of the future. Pro-Start was originally launched as part of Governor Jack Markell’s “Pathway to Prosperity” initiative.

Harrington Raceway and Casino’s involvement with Pro-Start was initiated by its Chief Operating Officer of Hospitality and Delaware Restaurant Association board member Hank Rosenberg.

A team of four students from Lake Forest High School are currently working with Harrington Raceway and Casino Executive Director of Food and Beverage Dj Silicato and Bonz executive chef Jason Ordway in preparation for a statewide competition at Dover Downs on March 1.

Members of the winning team will receive up to $33,000 individually in scholarship funds and earn a berth in the national competition on April 29 in Dallas, Texas. Three of the students on the team are current employees at Harrington Raceway, after a relationship developed through a mentoring program in which Mr. Silicato, Mr. Ordway and others began a commitment through the Lake Forest school district.

“The Pro-Start program pulls together the Department of Education, educators, students, schools, mentors and industry,” said Carrie Leishman, president/CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association.

“By working with leaders in the hospitality industry like those at Harrington Raceway and Casino, we can provide a great opportunity to students. This program develops their leadership and youth development skills both inside and outside the kitchen.”

Kelly Haugh, Lake Forest High School Family and Consumer Sciences teacher has seen firsthand what the Pro-Start Program has to offer.

“The Pro-Start program is benefiting students by providing them with a preview of the opportunities available to them if they continue to study culinary arts and management after high school,” she said. “The Pro-Start Invitational both challenges students to perform in a competitive, high-pressure environment and allows students the chance to showcase their culinary skills.”

Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce President Judy Diogo was in attendance and also lauded the success of the program.

“I had no idea about the Pro-Start Program until recently,” she said. “And hearing about it is so different from seeing it in action. What a great program. It provides high school students with the opportunity to experience the culinary world up close and personal.

“Having the chance to work with chefs, to learn not just basics of food preparation, but to learn how to prepare gourmet meals and then to also learn the formula for pricing out products and meals — it is just phenomenal. That experience is priceless. I thank Harrington Raceway & Casino for having the vision to get involved in this program and to help open up this world to local students.”

The food and beverage/hospitality industry has proven to be a vital industry in The First State with an estimated 46,000 employees in Delaware, approximately 10 percent of the state’s workforce.

Those interested in seeking more information about the Pro-Start program at Lake Forest High School, can contact Haugh via email at

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