The ProStart program of the Tucker County High School recently served-up a healthy helping of breakfasts in the State Rotunda during Tucker County days at the State Capitol.
The ProStart program is a culinary program at the high school which teaches front and back of house operation with 80% hands-on techniques. It teaches management and culinary skills at the high school level needed for a career in restaurant or food service industry. The instructor is Brian Covell, Chef, with a masters in Culinary Management. Completers of the course can get 12 college credit hours in the field and can earn National Restaurant Certification, ServSafe Certification, and W.V. Welcome (Hospitality Certification). To be a completer the students will have taken two years but there are also other advanced classes they can take such as: Baking/ Pastry; Culinary Nutrition; WV Tourism.
Chef Covell ‘s enthusiasm for the program has re-energized it. The enrollment has sky-rocketed from around 20 students a few years ago to nearly 80 presently. Being an educator in the field was always his ultimate goal. He has been in the industry for fifteen years and at Tucker County High School for two. Covell has taken an active part in helping pursue grants to bring the program to the level it is now. When he first started, there was a woeful lack of needed large equipment and what was on hand was not in the best of condition. In two short years the program now has several of the much needed items that any working food service operation should have. He believes in the program and its students so much that he can often be found on his off-hours putting together and installing the new equipment.
Covell’s dedication is beginning to pay off in his students. This year a team of five students competed in the West Virginia Hospitality Cup in Culinary and Management, (think Iron Chef!). Students had only one hour to cook a 1st, 2nd , and 3rd course meal. Our students, who ranged from sophomores to seniors, competed against 20 other teams of predominately senior students from tech schools which operate with more money and less student than ourselves. In this, our first year of attending , our students placed 4th. If fourth doesn’t excite you, then consider this: each student received a $500 scholarship. Team members were: Seth Millican, Cheyenne Surguy, Amber Michael, William Plum, and Amanda Harper.
Soon two of our students, Amanda Harper and Seth Millican, will be competing at the Putnam County Career and Tech Center in the SkillsUSA competition. The competitors will be cooking for approximately 7-8 hours straight. They are competing in two different areas. Should one or both of them place first they will go on to compete in Nationals with a chance to win some of the millions of dollars of scholarships awarded at this competition. If they win, Covell hopes that the community will take pride in that and step up to help get them to the competition which costs about $1,200 each to send them.
The program currently works with only an approximate $2,000 a school year supply budget. Anyone who has bought groceries lately has some idea of how very little that will buy. Now image spreading that amongst 80 eager students. To help offset this, Covell operates a catering company , called Chef’s Edge Catering where profits go toward new food supplies for the kids to work with. The students get community service hours for participating in these opportunities. The program is capable of handling parties from 1 to 500 (or more)! They will be catering the Parsons Alumni Dinner in May for about 270 people and the Teen Issues Day the end of May with about 400 total meals served throughout the day.
When asked where he’d like to see the program go from here, Chef Covell answered: “I would like us to be the best in the state, we’re on the right route, and maybe to have more money so I could teach more lessons.”
Interested in being a help to this program? They welcome help in small ways to big ones: buy their products at farmer’s markets, also the store inside the Run-For-It office in Davis, maybe at fair time donate an animal, or even more practical things like volunteer to help with putting together equipment.
Another big way to help would be to hire their catering company for your events.
For more information call Chef Covell at the High School 304-478-2651 or email him at email@example.com.