LONG BEACH, Calif. — It takes patience, skill and determination to make a fine dining dish feel like an experience.

What You Need To Know

  • More than 40 high school students created three-course dishes for a chance to win a piece of $500,000 in scholarships

  • The California Restaurant Foundation's 2022 ProStart Cup is a two-day competition where students put their skills to the test before a panel of judges

  • The program and competition prepares students for a future in the culinary industry

But that’s exactly what more than 40 SoCal high school students like Aurelia Carrie are hoping to create. From toasting coconut to cooking French cuisine, Carrie is hoping to turn her skills in the kitchen into a career by competing in California Restaurant Foundation’s 2022 ProStart Cup.

“I absolutely love doing it. It’s a thing that helps me relax and it’s kind of a distraction from the outside world,” she said.

Carrie’s team is from the Orange County School of the Arts. Together, they’ve spent months preparing their three course dishes, pitching their restaurant concepts and business plans, all for a chance at $500,000 in scholarships.

“I’m going to use the scholarship for college which I want to, maybe, go into the business side and later use that to open up a restaurant,” Carrie said.

The competition came at a time when many restaurants are slowly recovering from the pandemic’s pressure on the industry. Mac Daniel Dimla spent the day as a dessert judge, rating each dish from taste to presentation. As an alumnus of the program, Dimla was excited to see culinary students show off their passion and skills. Dimla’s journey through the program helped him start off his own culinary career from high school.

Now, at just 26 years old, Dimla is creating inspired chocolate desserts as the executive pastry chef of the 2-Michelin star restaurant called Providence in Los Angeles. He shared that the competition shined a bright light for the future of the industry.

“Worker shortage, restaurants closing because they can’t financially support themselves, but now, you eventually will have very skillful young professionals who will enter the industry and fill that void.”

Carrie feels like it’s also the perfect time to start her own career.

“I think it’s an opportunity for me as a student who wants to get industry since these restaurants would be open to having me.”