Let’s Celebrate CRAF California ProStart Students Now

In March the California Restaurant Association Foundation (CRAF) was forced by the Covid-19 pandemic to cancel it’s in-person California ProStart Cup. This year’s Chair John Tallichet (Speciality Restaurants Corp) with CRAF Executive Director Alycia Harshfield and the CRA management team weighed all event points and consulted with School Districts, Teachers, Parents, Advisors, Coaches, Mentors, Sponsors, and of course the Students. Teams that were to compete in-person at the Sheraton Fairplex Pomona at the end of March, would be competing in a Virtual CA ProStart Cup. Watch the Virtual Awards Ceremony. The CRAF team did a magnificent job to make the necessary changes and PIVOT to this new course of action. Pivot has become the most business term for the last four months.

CRAF did a commendable job and the school ProStart teams executed well. We really felt for the school teams, students, and teachers. This annual event has three areas of competition, The Culinary Cup, The Management Cup, and The Innovation Cup. CRAF has major sponsors for the CA ProStart Cup (See below) with high school teams from across the state traveling and sharing a wonderful and enriching experience that the students remember their entire lives. This competition brings the students, educators, and industry representatives as judges together. Many students will receive scholarships and possible employment offers while they are competing. The winning teams go to the National ProStart Invitational. They are sponsored and they represent California. See the link above if you would like to know more.

As long as I have known Michael R Hawkins (over 25 years), he has volunteered a tremendous amount of time to CRAF and the CRA, serving in all leadership positions. He has diligently chaired the Scholarship Committee for over 20 years. As a CRAF board member, I joined Michael on this (his) committee during the past 10 years, and with his guidance, interviewed these Scholarship applicants annually in a 30-minute conference call with each student. We have many interview questions and put the applicants through their paces. We usually have 3-4 board members or sponsors on the calls. The applicant’s number 40 – 60 students and industry employees enrolled in schools each year. We both reflect after we finish, that it is one of the most rewarding experiences in our careers.

Michael R. Hawkins, CRAF Board Member, Principal, Green Street Restaurant

These applicants are impressive. They have worked on multiple levels to educate themselves, participate in the ProStart curriculum with classwork, internships and jobs, they volunteer in their schools and communities and then compete in the CA ProStart Cup, which will include 4-6 months of preparation. These students are some of the very best California has to offer. It’s a shame that they missed the last few months of the school year and the CA ProStart competition. They also lost the hands-on experience of meeting and performing in front of the judges, attendees, and industry representatives.

This is an open invitation to all 2020 CRAF ProStart Cup team member as well as Scholarship Applicants to connect with me and Michael, via email, a call, or any social media platform. We encourage all students to create a Linkedin profile and connect with us. We will provide any advice or assistance that we usually provide in person or on the scholarship interview calls welcoming them to our beloved Hospitality Industry.

I’m including a CRAF Photo Album here that showcases CRAF events like the ProStart Cup, Force-In-Training, Board meetings, or other CRA events from previous years. You’ll see a little of what Michael and I see and feel every year. The energy is always amazing. What a truly deserving group of students joined by many giving hospitality industry professionals and sponsors, all donating their time and resources to the ProStart program. I’m very proud to be a member of this CRAF family that gives back almost every day to our industry.

You are viewing just some of the work that CRAF does each day and year. CRAF also manages Restaurants Care. A worthwhile program that provides one-time financial support to restaurant employees facing an unforeseen hardship.

If you would like to learn more about the California Restaurant Association Foundation Scholarship Donation Funds, Partners, and opportunities, CRAF would be thrilled to talk with you or your organization. Please contact me directly at 408-784-7371 if you are interested in scheduling a call with CRAF. You’ll be thrilled when you learn about the fantastic results that we accomplish.

Leave a Reply