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Archive for August, 2011

Sommeliers: Training and Results

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

By Harry Haff, , CEC, CCA, WSET Advanced Certificate, Chef Instructor, Le Cordon Bleu, Atlanta

Is there any word bandied about more cavalierly in our industry than the word sommelier? There are not many. Sometimes I think that restaurant-goers and foodies have the idea that whoever read the back label of a wine bottle and has the ability to spell gewürtztraminer is a sommelier.

While at a professional level we know this is not so, when someone of casual acquaintance announces that she or he is a sommelier, we are too polite or non-confrontational to ask what has made her or him a sommelier? Can they really spell gewürtztraminer? How many years of service and study has it taken them to be able to have others call them a sommelier?

This word that is so easily decanted is so difficult to come by, but there are options for sommelier training, and they can be an extraordinary addition to any good restaurant’s staff—and the bottom line.

From Driving Animals to Driving Wine
In modern times, the sommelier title is for someone who specializes in the service, storing and purchasing of wine as well as being responsible for training others in the dining room on the service of wines. Often the same person will create the wine list.

One of the most important responsibilities is the ability based on knowledge and experience to recommend an appropriate wine to accompany an item the guest ordered.

The term, according to Merriam-Webster, dates back originally to Roman times and is based on the word sagma, meaning a packsaddle. From there it evolved into Provençal as saumailer, or one who drives pack animals. Retaining this general job description, it entered into Middle French where the name was associated with someone who was responsible for supplies and transportation of supplies, like a quartermaster. Somewhere along the way, it became associated with a specialty in wine service, knowledge and supply.

What Makes a True Sommelier
Although anyone can call him or her self a sommelier, that does not make it so. The Court of Master Sommeliers was founded in 1977 under the direction of several professional beverage and hospitality organizations in Great Britain, including the Masters of Wine. For someone interested in actually being a sommelier, the program is in four levels:
1.    Introductory Level, which introduces the student to a worldwide basic understanding of wine regions, style and taste. The students are expected to do much background reading on their own before sitting for the two-day intensive instruction, written test and tasting test.
2.    Level II, the Certified Sommelier, which is composed of theory and tasting exams. Adding a service component, the candidate must perform decanting, sparkling wine service or standard wine service.
3.    Level III is the Advanced Sommelier level. It is a three-day intensive course, followed by a two-day exam of restaurant service and sales, written theory and a six-wine blind tasting. As is stated on the website, the “Advanced Examination is exponentially more challenging than the Certified Sommelier Exam.”
4.    The Master Sommelier Exam, Level IV, is an oral exam, a blind tasting and a practical service examination. All judges are Master Sommeliers, and the candidate has three years to pass all parts of the Level IV. The past rate for this level is about 10%.

The other main sommelier-training program is the International Sommelier Guild, based in Denver. It is recognized by the American Culinary Federation and also includes a three-tier approach as well as a wine educator component.
1.    This level is an introductory one that also has a component on the early stages of learning to pair food and wine.
2.    The Level II component is 48 hours of classroom instruction with emphases on blind tasting, sparkling wines, fortified wines, beers and ales, food and wine pairing techniques, dining room service as well as an essay on a given topic.
3.    The third level is known as the Diploma Program. Over a six-month time span, the candidate attends one eight-hour session per week. Contents are on viticulture, viniculture, service refinement, cellaring, tasting techniques, menu design and an essay.
4.    The ability to become a certified wine educator is in addition to the other three courses and is a unit unto itself.

As you can see, each of these programs is intensive, rigorous and not for the faint of heart or thin-skinned individuals. But what emerges is an industry professional trained to work in a rapidly expanding segment of the restaurant/hospitality industry.

The United States is now the largest wine market in the world in terms of volume and monetary volume. But our per capita consumption is still low when compared to other industrialized countries.

You may be surprised that the leading per capita wine-consuming country is the Vatican with 70.22 liters per person. According to the Wine Institute, Luxembourg is second with 54.29; France fourth at 42.49; Italy sixth at 38.14; Germany is 21st with 24.44; and the U.S. is 57th with 8.96. But while Germany, Italy and France all showed year-to-year declines in per capita consumption, the U.S. increased by 4.5%, with the Vatican increasing by 18.2%.

Now if this sounds unimpressive, consider that the Vatican has a population of 932, and the U.S. population is more than 307 million. And while Lewis Purdue, editor of Wine Industry Insight, forecasted on-premise sales in 2010 would decline, and they did. Year-to year due to the recession, off-premise increased by a dollar volume of more than 8%. This decline will reverse itself as the economy improves and as more Americans become familiar with wines in general.

How Sommeliers Help Restaurants
When one considers that wine sales across the board are increasing from almost all wine-producing countries — Australia being the striking exception —a knowledgeable person selling your wines and beverages and training your staff to sell as well becomes virtually a necessity in a good restaurant.

It is not enough for restaurant personnel to know the Napa Valley wines produced by a few big-name or trendy/cult producers when the single largest increase in wine sales by country in 2010 came from Argentina.

The wine news report notes that for the first quarter of 2011, imported wines outpaced domestic wines in dollar increase of sales in the $11-$14.99 ranges as well as the $15 to $19.99 range by 13% to 6% in the lower price segment, and by 27% (!) to 8% in the higher-priced segment. These are prime segments for many restaurants wanting a wine list with a sales sweet spot of $30-$60 per bottle. To be able to consistently sell a wide variety of wine, training is essential — sommelier training.

People who do not order wine for dinner in a restaurant are fearful of making mistakes and are looking for strong recommendations from a sommelier or a server. A highly trained sommelier that can also train the staff will remove this looming barrier to increased wine sales.

This is the most effective way to increase check averages overall. Selling a dessert split by two or three people will not increase a check average by more than $3 or $4 per person. But with an entrée price of $25 and two people splitting a $40 bottle of wine, that is a different story. A five-ounce pour will give each guest two and one half glasses. Add to that maybe a cocktail or a glass of bubbles before the meal, and an everyday experience for the guest as well as the operator just became something special.

Remember that well-recommended wines will make your chef’s food actually taste better; ditto for the wine. Poor match-ups will have exactly the opposite effect and are likely to leave your guests, if not downright unhappy, certainly not as pleased as they could and should be.

For those of you with active wine-by-the glass programs, confident servers will sell lots more if they do not have to worry about making a bad recommendation. People sell what they know, and a good sommelier will train the servers to a high level of confidence. When sales by the glass are well tracked, the sommelier will find how to select new additions to the wine list in much the same fashion as a chef tracks daily specials with a nod to some of them becoming new menu items.

There is no substitute for knowledge. We have a huge number of people in the U.S. becoming more interested in wines all the time, and we have a gigantic population base. People used to drinking wine at home will be more likely to order on-premise wines with dinner. But even knowledgeable guests want good recommendations from a trained person, just as they want a well-trained chef in the kitchen.

A good sommelier will cover their salary many times over in sales, provide a better-trained staff and help build a knowledgeable following for your restaurant. Go for it!

Harry Haff teaches Wines and Beverages, Cost Control and a variety of hot foods and baking and pastry classes at Le Cordon Bleu, Atlanta. A hospitality professional for more than 25 years, he has an intense interest in and knowledge of wines and beverages.


Chef Steve Hartman

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Fine Southern Food in the North Georgia Mountains

By Christy Simo

Chef Steve Hartman

There are scores of chefs and restaurant owners across the state doing new and different things, cooking interesting food and creating exciting restaurants. This month, we talked with Steven Hartman, executive chef at Le Vigne, Montaluce Winery’s restaurant in Dahlonega. Born and raised in Nashville, Tenn., Steven has a culinary arts degree from Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. He is also the former chef de cuisine for the Hermitage Hotel, a five-star, five-diamond icon in Nashville.

Chef Hartman has been at Le Vigne for two years. It’s a young winery and restaurant – the vines are on their sixth year of the rootstock, and the winery has only been open for three years.

Following is the highlights of our conversation. Be sure to also check out his blog, Hogballs & Mountain Dew at or follow him on Twitter @hogballs.

Tell me a little bit about Montaluce Winery and the restaurant itself.
Monteluce Winery and the restaurant is located on 400 acres in Dahlonega. We’ve got 17 acres planted in vineyards and 2 acres for an organic garden. We’re staying true to the whole local and sustainable movement. We started with offering the local wine and vegetables from our garden. We want to stay true to that by supporting the local artisans and producers and try to do our part and give back to the local community.

Why did you decide to become a chef?
My mom is a fairly accomplished southern American cook. I spent a lot of time in her kitchen growing up, so I began to appreciate food traditionally prepared and prepared well. And I grew up with a large garden in the yard. When I was a young teenager I began working in the foodservice industry and really began to enjoy the buzz and the excitement. It’s not a desk job by any means. It’s like, what’s going to happen today? There’s always something going down.

How would you describe your cooking style?
I’d say what I do is refined Southern regional. We take elements and techniques of traditional southern cuisine and try to add a sense of refinement to these and present them in a higher-end fashion. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it makes sense.

As a chef, what inspires you?
I’m very ingredient driven, and right now it’s awesome seeing beautiful produce coming in from the garden, things I haven’t seen since last spring. I always get excited about seeing morels again.

What is the best advice or tip you ever received?
At first when I was really struggling working the line and having a hard time staying on top of things, the chef said to me, “You know, you really need to think about things and work smarter, not harder.” It’s pretty simple, but at the end of the day, I tell cooks that more than anything else.

What’s the one item you must have in your kitchen?
I would say the Vita-Prep is essential to what I do.

What would you ban from your kitchen if you could?
Aluminum sauté pans. It’s hard to replace 100 sauté pans that are aluminum.

What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Vinegar plays a crucial role in my cuisine. Not only for preservation, but it’s a major part of the balancing act with what we do.

What would you say is your least favorite ingredient to cook with?
I really despise the smell of truffle oil. It’s one of those things. Truffles are fine, but truffle oil itself …  I don’t know if it’s too many times I’ve smelt it or too many people have overused it, but it’s just so strong that anytime anyone opens up truffle oil, it’s like, “Ahh, I wish we could just get away from this product and just use real truffles all the time.” But it’s hard for me to justify spending the money sometimes.

What is your favorite restaurant (outside your own, of course)?
The menu and style of cuisine at Holeman & Finch is fun for me as a chef and a diner. I’ve found it to be the most consistent and enjoyable dining experience in Atlanta or the surrounding area. It’s the opportunity to see chefs use products from the same producers and artisans that I use but presented in a different way. They’re using the whole animal similar to what we do here, but it’s fun seeing the different spin.

Who is the most inspirational person to you in the restaurant world?
Probably the chef I worked for at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, [Tyler Brown]. He’s the executive chef there and I was his head chef de cuisine for a number of years. We built a strong relationship and found a good cooking balance between the two of us.

What is your favorite thing about the foodservice industry?
I love and hate the hours at the same time. It’s a labor of love being here, but it’s awfully time-consuming. I love working and the challenge of working in a kitchen and the rush, but also it’s tough watching my baby grow up and think, well, I’m going to be gone for 15 hours today. My wife is going out of town this weekend to a birthday party, but I’m going to stay back and do a wine dinner tonight. So I’m really pumped up about the wine dinner, but I’d love to see my friends and family back in Nashville.

What is the most challenging part of heading up the kitchen?
I think cooks are super tough and super sensitive at the same time. So figuring out the mentality of all the different cooks is a balancing act. It’s interesting. Everybody has their own style of management, but everybody has their own learning style and respond better to different techniques and avenues.

If you weren’t in the restaurant industry, what do you think you’d be doing?
I’d guide fly-fishing trips. I’ve got a lot of opportunities for fishing up here. Our winery is located on the Etowah River, so we take clients down and do basic fly fishing casting and fly-fishing instruction, then we’ll harvest our catch . We’ll do a demonstration on cleaning and cooking the trout by the river. It’s neat and fun and something different for them to do.

If you could decide your last meal, what would it be?
Collard greens with grits and a slow-roasted pork shoulder. Hearty Southern food with a lot of flavor. I grew up eating greens but didn’t enjoy them very much, and now it’s one of those things I can’t get enough of.


2011 GRACE Award Finalists

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

The Georgia Restaurant Association announced the following GRACE Awards finalists for 2011.  GRACE Awards are the Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence Awards.  Finalists are nominated by the GRA membership and winners will be announced at the GRACE Awards Gala to be held on November 13, 2011 at the Loews Atlanta Hotel.

During the Gala the Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Ted Turner, Ted’s Montana Grill.

Restaurateur of the Year
Richard Blais, Trail-Blais
Chris Hall, Todd Mussman & Ryan Turner, Local Three Kitchen & Bar
Riccardo Ullio, U Restaurants

Industry Partner of the Year
Kathleen Ciaramello, Coca-Cola Refreshments
Michelle Davidson, The Defoor Centre
Walt Davis, Retail Data Systems

Distinguished Service Award
Rich Chey, HomeGrown Restaurants Concepts
Jo Ann Herold, Arby’s Restaurant Group
Brian Lyman, Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q

The Innovator Award
Delia Champion & Molly Gunn, Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand
Will Harris, White Oak Pastures
Keith M. Schroeder & Hunter Thornton, High Road Craft Ice Cream & Sorbet

Lifetime Achievement Award
Ted Turner, Ted’s Montana Grill


Chef Art Smith Makes Atlanta Debut with Southern Art and Bourbon Bar

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Art Smith will open the doors to Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, his first restaurant and bar concepts in the Southeast, on September 26, 2011. Southern Art will be located in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood will combine an urban eatery with classic Southern charm, offering Southern-inspired cuisine and cocktails.

“I am very excited to bring Southern Art to the Atlanta dining scene, which has become one of the most progressive culinary cities in the country,” said Smith. “Southern Art will embrace my heritage and utilize the freshest ingredients from local farms to celebrate the South.”

Previously, Smith was executive chef and co-owner of Table fifty-two in Chicago, Ill., Art and Soul in Washington, D.C., and LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto, Calif., Smith served as the personal chef to Oprah Winfrey for 10 years and now coordinates and cooks for the special events that she hosts. Smith’s several television appearances include Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Iron Chef America, The Today Show, Nightline, Fox News, Extra, BBQ Pitmasters, Dr. Oz and Oprah. A contributing editor to O, the Oprah Magazine, Smith is also the author of three award-winning cookbooks: Back to the Table, Kitchen Life: Real Food for Real Families and Back to the Family. In 2003, he founded Common Threads, a non-profit organization that teaches children about diversity and tolerance through the world’s great cultures. Smith was honored by Chicago magazine as a “Chicagoan of the Year” in 2007, and later that year received the prestigious “Humanitarian of the Year” award by the James Beard Foundation.

The menu will be reflective of Smith’s own family traditions with roots deep in the South, featuring a few select custom-aged steaks from the Smith family’s 100-year-old cattle ranch located in Hamilton County on the border of south Georgia and north Florida.

Sample appetizers include baked oysters with crispy pork belly, Smith’s mother Addie Mae’s chicken-and-dumpling soup, Tybee Island pickled shrimp with tomato, watermelon and lime-basil dressing and a Lowcountry seafood platter. Entrée selections range from roasted whole yellowtail snapper with smashed roasted potatoes, spit-roasted half chicken with braised greens, braised Berkshire hog pork shoulder with green tomato chow-chow, fried chicken and sour cream waffles and Smith Family Ranch grilled aged ribeye steak with red eye gravy. Side dishes include corn and okra pudding and sweet potato soufflé.

Southern Art will feature an artisan ham-and-charcuterie bar to showcase the strong craft and long-standing traditions of regional country hams. Carved to order and served with piping hot biscuits or crackling skillet corn bread and house-made butter and pickles, the artisan ham bar will be a unique focal point for the dining room and a distinctive beginning to any meal.

In addition, guests can peruse delectable house-made desserts from a vintage pie table from which classics such as blueberry cobbler, buttermilk chocolate cake, 12-layer red velvet cake, mockingbird cake with crushed peaches and Georgia pecans and summer peach pie will be served. Guests can order a house-made pie, baked to order, to enjoy in house or to take home for friends and family to share.

With seating for 74 guests, Bourbon Bar will serve as both a meeting place for after-work and post-dinner gathering. The bar will feature a  selection of American bourbon distillers, focusing on small-batch producers and featuring select bourbons only available at Bourbon Bar through exclusive agreements. In addition to more than 70 bourbon offerings, the bar will offer pre-Prohibition era drinks.

Southern Art’s main dining room will seat 92 and a private dining room that seats up to 40 people. Additionally, a outdoor terrace seats 48.

A unique collage of artwork is suspended from the ceiling glass chandeliers are hung between the artwork, adding vibrancy to the aesthetic, while a custom damask wall paper hung above a painted wainscot creates a charming library feel.

Southern Art is located at 3315 Peachtree Road in Atlanta. For more information about Southern Art, visit


Former Hooters Execs Join Twin Peaks

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Less than three months after Twin Peaks named former Hooters CEO Rick Akam as its COO, the rapidly expanding Texas-based casual dining chain announced today that an investment group led by top former Hooters executives has signed a series of development agreements to open 35 Twin Peaks restaurants throughout six states over the next 10 years.

The majority partner of the franchise group is Coby Brooks, who until last month had served since 2003 as president and CEO of Atlanta-based Hooters of America, LLC, (HOA). After leaving Hooters of America, LLC last month, Brooks decided to pursue the Twin Peaks opportunity. He will be joined by:

– Joe Hummel, former Executive Vice President of Operations and Purchasing for HOA;
– Roger Gondek, former Vice President of Company Store Operations for HOA;
– Clay Mingus, former Vice President and General Counsel for HOA;
– Jim Tessmer, former Vice President and Controller for HOA;
– Patti Frederick, who served 17 years as Business Administrator to Bob Brooks, owner of HOA from 1984 until his death in 2006, and with the Brooks estate for the past five years.

Hummel, Gondek, Mingus and Tessmer all resigned from Hooters of America last month.

The franchise group will open restaurants in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee over the next 10 years. The first two restaurants are scheduled to open within 18 months with three to four restaurants to be added each year after that. The total agreement represents more than 2,200 new jobs and includes options on additional restaurant development beyond the first 35.

Named a 2010 “Hot Concept!” by Nation’s Restaurant News, Twin Peaks has 15 locations throughout Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Six more restaurants are slated to open this year in San Antonio, Odessa, Houston, Baton Rouge, Scottsdale and Denver. Each restaurant features made-from-scratch food and ice cold draft beer served by friendly and attractive Twin Peaks Girls in a mountain sports lodge setting.

The agreement reunites the last two Hooters of America CEOs under the Twin Peaks brand.

Akam served as CEO of Hooters of America from 1995 to 2003 where he oversaw national expansion of the young chain before turning that position over to Brooks. He then served as COO for Raving Brands and First Watch Restaurants, helping those enterprises improve operational efficiencies and develop a franchising strategy before founding his own restaurant consulting firm in early 2009.

“I have great respect for Rick and his understanding of what it takes to build a national restaurant brand,” said Brooks. “His decision to join the Twin Peaks management team made my decision to pursue this opportunity that much easier. I have certainly been watching Twin Peaks over the years. I like their product, atmosphere and the overall experience they give the consumer. The professionalism and passion that Randy and his team displayed during negotiations only strengthened my resolve to partner with them and become part of their family. Unquestionably, the team I have put in place is poised to rapidly build the Twin Peaks brand in the southeast and make Randy proud of what he has created and cultivated.”


Ocean Prime to Open in October 2011

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Restaurateur Cameron Mitchell announced that his award-winning concept Ocean Prime will open in late October 2011 occupying the former location of Sambuca Jazz Café on Piedmont Road in Buckhead. Under the leadership of executive chef Jason Shelley, Ocean Prime Atlanta will serve seafood, steaks, cocktails and wines in an supper club atmosphere.

An associate of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants since 2004, Shelley has worked at Ocean Prime locations in Florida and also Mitchell’s Ocean Club in Columbus, Ohio.

Cameron Mitchell Restaurants LLC operates 17 restaurants under seven different concepts in Columbus, Ohio; Louisville, Ky.; Phoenix & Scottsdale, Ariz.; Detroit, Mich.; Orlando, & Tampa Fla.; Dallas, Texas; and Denver, Co.  Concepts include Cameron’s American Bistro, Cap City Fine Diner & Bar, Martini Modern Italian, M, Molly Woo’s Asian Bistro, Marcella’s, Ocean Prime (a.k.a. Mitchell’s Ocean Club) and Cameron Mitchell Catering. Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern, managed by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, currently operates 12 units. For more information on Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, visit


Give Me Five: Five Chefs & Five Sommeliers

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

August 28, 2011 at Cherokee Town Club, Atlanta.  For more information, contact Share Our Strength.


Atlanta’s Alex Hwang Named 2011 ACF Pastry Chef of the Year

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

The best pastry chef in the nation, according to the American Culinary Federation, Inc., (ACF), a national organization of professional chefs, is Kyongran “Alex” Hwang, of Cumming, Ga., assistant pastry chef at Cherokee Town and Country Club, Atlanta. Hwang received $5,000 and the title of 2011 Pastry Chef of the Year, sponsored by Splenda, at the 2011 ACF National Convention held at the Gaylord Texan, Dallas, July 22-26.

Pastry Chef Alex Hwang

“It feels awesome to be the Pastry Chef of the Year,” said Hwang. “I will always remember this as one of the greatest achievements of my life.”

The ACF Pastry Chef of the Year award was established in 2004, and recognizes a pastry chef who displays a passion for the craft, has an accomplished reputation in the pastry field and has helped educate others by sharing skills and knowledge. Four finalists from each ACF region competed at the national convention after first being nominated by colleagues and then winning their respective regional competition.

In Dallas, the Pastry Chef of the Year competition format was different than in years past. Chefs had 2 hours to prep and serve three items: a plated dessert using Splenda, an enrobed miniature pastry and a showpiece at least 18 inches tall. Another new element was the mystery box. On entering the kitchen, chefs received a box with four items: peaches, pistachios, crescenza-stracchino cheese and Vin Santo Chianti. All items had to be used in some form. Chefs also shopped for items from a common pantry. A panel of distinguished judges determined the winner.

“Chef Hwang’s composed plate and miniature pastries were well balanced in flavor, texture and skill execution,” said Patricia Nash, CEPC, who served as a tasting judge. “Her sugar showpiece was clean and showed various techniques within the medium.”

Winning Menu:
·         Plated dessert: Coconut crunch with lime sponge, orange/peach marmalade, white chocolate peach mousse, soft cheese ice cream and sweet wine sauce
·         Fantasy was the showpiece theme

Hwang was born in Seoul, South Korea. There, she earned certification in baking and pastry from The Baking and Pastry Institute of Korea, Seoul, and an associate degree in traditional cuisine from Seoul Health College, Sungnam, Kyunggi-Do, South Korea. Hwang came to the U.S. in 1999 with the dream of being a great pastry chef. In 2002, she earned an associate degree in baking and pastry arts from The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y. In 2002, she joined the staff at Cherokee Town and Country Club. After learning from mentors at the club, including Chris Northmore, CMPC, and Heather Hurlbert, she began competing. She has won numerous awards, including a silver medal in the Novelty Cake Competition at the 2006 ACF Pastry Salon in Savannah, Ga.; first place in the 2007 and 2008 ACF Pastry Salons at the Great American Dessert Expo in Atlanta; and first place in the 2010 ACF and MARS Make-it-Mini Dessert Trio competition in Birmingham, Ala. She is a member of ACF Greater Atlanta Chapter Inc.

For a list of past Pastry Chef of the Year award winners, visit


Summer Shade Festival/Corks & Forks

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

August. 27–28, 2011 at Grant Park in Atlanta. For more information, visit Grant Park Conservancy.


More than $2 Million in Industry Support for ProStart Program

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced today that it has passed the two-thirds point in its 2011 fundraising goal of $3 million for its ProStart program.  Recent donations from Brodersen Management Corp./Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen, Buffalo Wild Wings, Darden Restaurants, Georgia-Pacific Professional, Sugar Foods and Sweet Street Desserts have brought the year-to-date total raised to $2,044,242.

“These industry leaders join the operators, manufacturers, distributors and service providers that have already made sizable commitments to growing and enhancing the ProStart program,” said Carlton Curtis, chairman of the board of the NRAEF and vice president of The Coca-Cola Company.

ProStart is a nationwide, two-year program for 90,000 high school students that develops the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s industry leaders.  From culinary techniques to management skills, ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-world educational opportunities and builds practical skills and a foundation that will last a lifetime.

“Industry momentum behind ProStart continues to grow,” said Lynette McKee, executive director of the NRAEF.  “Investing in ProStart now is an investment in the future of our industry and the next generation of restaurant and foodservice leaders.”

In partnership with state restaurant associations, the funds raised will support:
Educational programming and supplies for students and educators
Accessibility of the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement
Enhancement of ProStart national and state competitions
Professional development for educators
Scholarships for ProStart students and educators

”Buffalo Wild Wings is proud to support the ProStart program.  Bringing real-life experiences to high school students inspires them to dream and plan for the future, and attracting and retaining creative, passionate talent is critical to the success of our business, said Sally Smith, president and CEO, Buffalo Wild Wings.  “The restaurant industry provides many rewarding career opportunities and this program introduces students to the wide variety of creative and business oriented career choices they may not have realized existed.”

By bringing industry and the classroom together, ProStart gives students a platform to discover new interests and talents and opens doors for fulfilling careers.  It all happens through a curriculum that teaches all facets of the restaurant and foodservice industry, inspires students to succeed and sets a high standard of excellence for students and the industry.  With national and local support from industry members, educators, the NRAEF and state restaurant associations, ProStart reaches 1,700 schools nationwide.  For more information on the ProStart program, visit or find us on Twitter or Facebook.

The NRAEF is seeking additional support for ProStart and if you are interested in supporting the program please contact the NRAEF at 800-765-2122 or visit

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