Business

New Restaurant Program Gives Students a Taste of the Industry

The National Restaurant Association's new Project Taste Test, launched last week, offers students an inside look at working in food service, with some help from PepsiCo.

Listen up, budding chefs.

The National Restaurant Association’s new “Project Taste Test—Servin’ Up Successful Careers” video series, launched through the trade group’s educational foundation, aims to give students the flavor of what it means to work in the food service industry by having experienced pros tell them what it’s actually like.

Obviously, they’re learning skills to get great jobs, and we wanted to push the envelope a little bit and tell the story of what those jobs can be. They’re far and beyond what you would expect.

The initiative was created in partnership with PepsiCo Foodservice. It’s part of the industry’s two-year ProStart high school program, which has taught about 95,000 students about culinary arts and management with the help of 48 state restaurant associations. The new component will feature the input of industry executives—including PepsiCo Corporate Executive Research Chef Stephen Kalil, who discussed creating new products in the first video.

“We wanted to showcase careers,” the NRA Educational Foundation’s director of communications, Ashley Mills, told Star Local Media. “Obviously, they’re learning skills to get great jobs, and we wanted to push the envelope a little bit and tell the story of what those jobs can be. They’re far and beyond what you would expect.”

Salsa and service

During a classroom session earlier this month at the Career and Technical Education Center in Frisco, Texas, Kalil offered first-year culinary students an idea of the elements that go into making great food by having them make salsa for him. The students had 15 minutes to create salsa from scratch for Kalil, who’s something of a tough customer: His team famously helped create Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Taco a few years ago.

Only part of the training experience involves cooking. Students also learn important service aspects of the industry. Ultimately, the foundation hopes to boost the industry’s impact. With food service employment expected to grow by 11 percent in the next decade, according to the association, programs like this one could help the next generation of food industry professionals jump in with more than just passion for food.

Pre-college initiatives such as Project Taste Test didn’t exist when Kalil grew up. “I wish I had one-tenth the skills they have when I was their age,” Kalil said, according to Star Local Media. “I didn’t have these types of opportunities this early in my education as these students do. If I did, well, I might be CEO of PepsiCo by now.”

How are you working to build your industry’s next generation? Tell us in the comments.

(National Restaurant Association press photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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