Wednesday, March 23, 2016

TOP STORY >> Bringin’ home the bacon

Leader staff writer

“We always take champions,” said North Pulaski High School teacher Teresa Perkins after her restaurant management team took the gold at the recent Arkansas State ProStart Invitational Restaurant Management event at Pulaski Technical College.

“I always have faith,” Perkins said. After all, in the five years that she’s had teams in the competition, the high school has netted two seconds and three firsts.

But senior Ashley Felton, a member of the three-person team, said, “The winners were announced after we had lunch at the Governor’s Mansion and, when we weren’t named third, I figured we were either fourth or second,” she said.

Not first?

“No,” Felton said, “I thought a team from Arkansas Tech would take first. They did a great job.”

But, after that team was awarded second place, Felton knew North Pulaski had struck gold.

Management teams developed a proposal for the next hot restaurant concept and presented it to a panel of industry judges. Next, their ability to think on their feet was tested as they quickly solved challenges managers face on a daily basis.

Felton and her teammates, NPHS senior Hayley Walker and Sylvan Hills High School junior Olivia Meadows, had to develop a restaurant concept (a bacon and tropical fusion food truck). That included creating the menu, preparing items from the menu, pricing the menu items, figuring out how much they cost to make, applying an interior design and floor plan, marketing and everything involved in making their food truck — the Hula Hog — work efficiently.

Their concept focused on providing exceptional customer service to their “baconheads” by creating a fun-filled environment to relieve daily stress.

The team’s slogan, “Lei’d Back Bacon Time,” certainly tied in the bacon and tropical theme.

Felton said the team got the basic bacon concept from an idea NPHS culinary students floated last year that never came to fruition.

Perkins called the project, event and competition a “college-level project.”

The students, all in their first year of the NPHS restaurant management program, had to demonstrate exceptional teamwork, critical thinking and a good working knowledge of the restaurant field.

She said, once the group had the food truck’s name, everything just flowed.

Felton admits that, before she got into the high school’s restaurant program, she couldn’t cook. “I was great at burning cookies,” she quipped. But now she said she is confident in her cooking and leadership skills.

Each student on the North Pulaski team won more than $27,000 in scholarships toward a degree in restaurant management, culinary or hospitality management.

Now the local team, along with their teacher, will travel to Grapevine, Texas, on April 29-May 2 to attend the National ProStart Invitational.

As much as Felton enjoyed the competition and as much as she’s looking forward to the national event, she still plans to major in engineering in college.