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Atmos Energy, Hospitality & Restaurant Association partner to host Mississippi ProStart Competition

By: Anne Summerhays - March 6, 2023

During the two day event, students from across the state will showcase their restaurant management and culinary arts skills.

Atmos Energy and the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association (MSRA) are partnering to host the Mississippi ProStart Competition (MPSI) in Jackson on March 6th and 7th.

During the two-day event, students from across the state will showcase their restaurant management and culinary arts skills. Students will put their abilities to the test in front of industry professionals, MSRA board members, educators and family and friends.

“Teams of ProStart students from across the state of Mississippi will have the opportunity to present what they have learned in the program to panels of judges consisting of industry professionals and educators,” MSRA said.

Pat Fontaine, Executive Director of the Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association, said ProStart is a two-year, industry-backed culinary arts and restaurant management program for high school students.

“The program reaches approximately 165 thousand students in over 1,800 schools in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and the Territory of Guam,” Fontaine said. “Over the past 23 years, more than 1 million students have participated in ProStart. State officials say the restaurant and hospitality industry can be a great fit for young people in Mississippi.”

During the culinary competition on Tuesday, March 7th, students will have one hour to prepare two identical starters, entrees and desserts, using no running water and only two gas burners. They will be judged on their knowledge of basic skills, the execution of their menu, organization and of course the taste and visual appeal of the meal. 

The ProStart event consists of two different competitions – management and culinary.

Through the management portion of the competition, management teams will develop a proposal for the next “hit” restaurant concept and present it to a panel of industry judges.

“Their ability to think on their feet is tested as they quickly solve challenges managers face on a daily basis,” MSRA said.

During the culinary portion, culinary teams must prepare a three-course meal in 60 minutes, using only two butane burners with no access to running water or electricity. Participants are evaluated on taste, skill, safety and sanitation.

John Duease, Vice President of Marketing for Atmos Energy Mississippi Division, said it seems only natural that Atmos Energy would want to support the Mississippi ProStart culinary competition where students are not only learning about cooking with natural gas but also understanding how to possibly make a career out of it.

“The promotion of natural gas cooking has always been a priority for Mississippi Valley Gas Company, now Atmos Energy, going back to 1980’s with the MVG School Range Program where the gas company partnered with high school home economic programs to educate students on the benefits of cooking with natural gas,” said Duease.

The winning management and culinary teams will go on to compete at the National ProStart Invitational (NPSI) in Washington D.C.

“Competing at MPSI is a great opportunity for ProStart students to meet and network with other students from across the state, college and university recruiters and industry professionals. The first place management and first place culinary MPSI teams will travel to Washington D.C. to compete at NPSI,” MSRA said. “The MRAEF will pay for travel and hotel accommodations for the students, one educator and one chaperone from each team. The MRAEF will also purchase the competition supplies needed to compete at NPSI.”

You can see the schedule of the two day event below.

Monday, March 6th

  • 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Team Registration / Spectator Check-In
  • 2:30 pm – 2:50 pm Opening Ceremony or Introductions
  • 3:00 pm – 5:15 pm Management Competition

Tuesday, March 7th

  • 8:00 am – 11:00 am Team Registration & Product Check-In / Spectator Check-In
  • 7:30 am – 9:30 am Breakfast
  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm Culinary Competition
  • 11:00 am – 2:00 pm College & Career Exhibits
  • 11:30 am -1:30 pm Lunch
  • 2:15 pm – 3:00 pm Awards & Closing
About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: