On March 16, 15 teams from across Washington state competed in the annual ProStart competition, a management and culinary throw-down of high school students interested in pursuing careers in hospitality. In the end, the culinary team from North Central High School in Spokane and the management team from Bonney Lake High School came out victorious. 

“It’s my favorite day of the year,” said Washington Hospitality Association President and CEO Anthony Anton. “We get to witness people experiencing our industry in a new way with pure joy and see the passion that the kids have for the restaurants or the passion we all got when we first got involved in the industry. It’s great to see that it’s still alive.” 

ProStart is a hands-on, real-world, career-connected learning program, and students are mentored by industry leaders. Students not only receive career and technical education credits, but their industry mentors open doors for them when they are ready to enter the workforce. 

“The two-year ProStart program is a vital asset within our workforce pipeline,” said Sonja Halverson, the director of the Washington Hospitality Association Education Foundation. “Its curriculum offers invaluable hands-on experience, laying a sturdy foundation for those pursuing a career path in hospitality.” 

In the management competition, six teams faced off with presentations that included a business plan, concept and menus.  

  • Bonney Lake High School, Bonney Lake 
  • Ferris, Spokane 
  • Northwest Career and Technical Academy, Anacortes 
  • Rogers, Spokane 
  • Cheney High School, Cheney 
  • Newport, Bellevue  

Bonney Lake took home the trophy with their concept of a semi-formal establishment, Fairie’s Hideout, which specializes in afternoon tea. 

“We want our restaurant to be family-friendly but not childlike, so you still get that sense of joy no matter how old you are,” the team said in their proposal.  

The cuisine would hail from places with solid fairy folklore, such as Ireland, Germany and the United Kingdom. 

Bonny Lake’s management team is led by teacher Kahale Ahina and includes Mira Tynes, Clara Jensen, and Mabel Anderson. Their professional mentor is Michael Ventura. This team won the state competition in 2023, and Tynes is returning for another year.  


On the culinary side, students created a three-course meal without electricity and running water. They use propane gas camp stoves and haul in their own water. 

This year, the competition saw nine teams battle it out for culinary glory: 

  • North Central, Spokane 
  • Newport, Bellevue 
  • Two teams from Ferris, Spokane 
  • Two teams from Lewis and Clark, Spokane 
  • Two teams from Mt. Tahoma, Tacoma 
  • Foss, Tacoma 

North Central High School beat out the other teams with its menu, “Bounty of the Inland Northwest.”  

The meal started with an appetizer called Morel Forest. It included shaved asparagus trunks, morels, garlic pesto, pickled shallots, pecorino Romano and a chiffonade of basil. The second course, Spring Steelhead, included local fish, a citrus salad, morel rice pilaf, charred tomato romesco and poblano cream.  

For dessert, the judges sampled a wild huckleberry frybread with hazelnut cream, orange zest, huckleberry sauce, frybread and a huckleberry isomalt glass. 

The team included teacher Kim Stewart and students Arlen Everman-Jones, Allison German, Elisa Wilbur and Elina Khadka. Garth Hicks from Wild Sage Bistro served as the team’s mentor. 

 “Witnessing the students in action during the competition left me extremely impressed,” Halverson said. “Their ability to maintain a steadfast calm in a room overflowing with spectators speaks volumes about their resilience and poise. It’s a testament to the value of the program in nurturing not just technical skills but also the ability to thrive under pressure.” 

Both teams are now eligible to compete in the National ProStart Invitational from April 26-28 in Baltimore, Maryland. 

The Washington Hospitality Association would like to extend its thanks to the Cowlitz Tribe for its sponsorship of this event and the many volunteers and judges who stepped up to help.