By Tamas Mondovics

More than 400 students from across the state including students from 13 Hillsborough County high schools participated in the 14th Annual ProStart Culinary Team Competitions.

The event, hosted by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Educational Foundation, showcased the best high school students in the state, many of whom will continue their education beyond high school at prestigious culinary arts schools across the country.

Held earlier this month at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, the competition welcomed local teams including Armwood, Bowers Whitley Career Center, Chamberlain, DW Waters Career Center, East Bay, Freedom, Jefferson, Leto, Robinson, Sickles, South County Career Center, Steinbrenner and Strawberry Crest.

students had the chance to measure up their skills in culinary, management, edible centerpieces and a waiters relay event.

J. P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs won first place in the overall competition, while Tarpon Springs High School came in second place followed by last year’s top-honors winner Leto High School placing third under the direction of team instructor Debra Hladky.

More than $800,000 in scholarships was distributed to the winning schools.

Rick Ceglio, Culinary Arts Instructor at Sickles High School, was selected as the ProStart Teacher of the Year and received the prestigious Pineapple Award for outstanding service to the ProStart School to Career program at the awards dinner on Thursday, March 6, in Orlando. This is the third year in a row a teacher from Hillsborough County has received the award.

“We are thrilled to have talented students from across the state showcase their skills and give a glimpse into the future of Florida’s hospitality industry,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. For more information visit


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