The ProStart Culinary teams from the Orleans and Niagara Career and Technical Education centers came home victorious from the annual Taste of Education event at Salvatore’s.

This year’s competition celebrated plant forward foods. The New York State Restaurant Association WNY Chapter wanted to celebrate the push for more sustainable foods with an emphasis on plant proteins.

Taste of Education, held March 10th, featured local chefs and up and coming culinary students across Western New York who are looking to show off their skills.

The ProStart team from Orleans Career and Technical Education Center consisted of Lillee Gollhardt (Lockport), Eve Hicks (Newfane), Josh Rastelli (Royalton-Hartland), Sarah Sornberger (Royalton-Hartland), Jada Elias (Lockport) and Dakhota Little (Newfane), taught by Chef James Atzrott and teacher aide Darlene Harriger.

The Medina-based team took first place for the Judges’ Choice for their menu of: butternut squash kibbeh with labneh, smoked carrots with lemon tahini yogurt, tabbouleh, baba ganoush, muhammara, rye berry salad with roasted red pepper sressing, s’mores with aquafaba marshmallows, vegan chocolate cherry dessert bites, flatbread and pomegranates.

The ProStart team from Niagara Career and Technical Education Center took home first runner-up for the Judges’ Choice with their menu of polenta with mushroom sauce, spinach feta phylo bites, taco bar, beef 'n broccoli with rice, black bean burger with carrot risotto and chipotle sauce, oatmeal cookie with peanut butter frosting, carrot cake cupcake and homemade potato chips.

The Sanborn-based team consisted of: Samantha Seely (Starpoint), Katlyn Volmer (Lewiston-Porter), Dominik Linde (Niagara Falls), Alex Stoelting (North Tonawanda), Gina Ellis (North Tonawanda) and Megan Brown (Starpoint), taught by chefs Lisa Cook, Robert Ihle and Caitlin Kucharski and teacher aide Theresa Bettinger.

This year there was also an Alumni Challenge, for which three past Iron Chefs competed with three student sous chefs. Chefs Alex Dispence, Darian Bryan and Arthur Pepe went head to head in the fast-paced one-hour culinary contest. The winning team was composed of sous chef Jada Ellis and Arthur Pepe, who is the chef instructor at New Buffalo School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and an adjunct professor of culinary arts at Niagara Falls Culinary Institute.

Taking second place were sous chef Cody Scruggs and Darian Bryan, owner and executive chef for The Plating Society, a pop-up restaurant in Buffalo.  

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