2024 NJ ProStart Invitational


That’s a Wrap!

The NJ Restaurant Educational Foundation (NJREF), the philanthropic branch of the NJ Restaurant & Hospitality Association (NJRHA), hosted the 2024 NJ ProStart Invitational on February 27th at the Grand Marquis in Old Bridge, NJ. New Jersey High School students participating in the ProStart Program competed for over $943,000 in scholarship money from partner colleges. First place culinary and management teams advance to compete at the National ProStart Invitational against all 50 states for additional scholarship opportunities. The Invitational was free to attend and students were supported by family and friends.

Tasked with creating a fine dining menu, preparing an appetizer, entree, and dessert using no electricity or running water, 10 teams showcased their creativity and culinary expertise. Leaders of New Jersey’s hospitality industry including chefs, restaurant owners, and college level educators volunteer their time to judge the competition based on categories such as product check in, knife skills, taste, and safety/sanitation.

Photo of culinary judge with students, entree, and management team presenting

Bringing their restaurant concept to life, five management teams proposed their business plan in the “shark tank” style management competition. The panel of judges included restaurant and hotel owners/operators, CEOs, and marketing/operations directors. Judges followed up by asking the students situational questions. Students were additionally judged on their responses.

The 2024 NJ ProStart Invitational winner are as followed:

  • 3rd Place Culinary: Paramus High School Team 2
  • 2nd Place Culinary: Passaic County Technical Institute Team 1
  • 1st Place Culinary: Passaic County Technical Institute Team 2
  • 3rd Place Management: Paramus High School
  • 2nd Place Management: Bergen County Academies
  • 1st Place Management: Mercer County Technical Schools

Winning Culinary and Management Teams with trophies

Following the Invitational, students, judges, parents/families , sponsors, and educators gathered for the Awards Celebration Dinner Reception. Students displayed their competition work for guests to view and networked with partnering colleges.

Chef Rory with Educator of the Year Certificate

The NJRHA/NJREF awarded Chef Rory Philipson from Mercer County Technical Schools the 2024 Educator of Excellence Award honoring her passion and dedication to helping her students grow and pursue their dreams in the hospitality industry. 

The 2024 National ProStart Invitational takes place April 26-28th in Baltimore, MD. The NJRHA/NJREF are thrilled to cheer on our students representing New Jersey!

Interested in supporting the NJ ProStart Program?

Contact green@njrha.org for more information.