My interest in the restaurant industry began at a young age as I watched several of my family members in the kitchen. My grandpa ran a catering business and helping him was my first real experience working in the foodservice industry. From that experience early on, I was able to learn basic cooking skills and several lessons in customer service. The ProStart program taught me so much more than culinary skills. During those two years I learned how to work together with my team and challenge myself to continually improve my work. Going through the ProStart program was something that I will never forget and I believe that it was ProStart that pushed me to pursue a career in the restaurant industry.
My advice to someone who is thinking about going into the restaurant industry would be to go for it. I think that if someone is truly passionate about cooking for people, they should look into culinary school or a program at a university that will prepare them for the restaurant world. To someone who is still in high school, I would highly recommend going through the ProStart program. That experience was something that has changed my life and I think that anyone with that opportunity should definitely take advantage of it while they can.
I have received many opportunities through the restaurant industry. Aside from my high school experience with ProStart, I had an awesome summer internship at Cache Bake Shoppe, a bakery that I worked at in high school. I have also received multiple scholarships through ProStart which will help me continue my education at Iowa State. I am so incredibly grateful for my experiences in ProStart and the opportunities that continue to surround me in the restaurant industry.
The greatest challenge I have faced so far is finding my way outside of culinary school. Throughout my senior year, I knew that culinary school was not the path for me, but it was still difficult to find a school that would provide me with the skills and tools I will need in the future. The culinary science program at Iowa State typically does not produce bakery owners. However, I feel that the knowledge I obtain during my years here will help me when it comes to recipe development in the future. I am planning on having a bakery with fresh and local ingredients. What I am learning at school will help me make the best use of the ingredients that will be available to me and I am happy with my decision to go through this program.
Jessica Havel went to Waukee High School, in Waukee, Iowa, and is currently a sophomore at Iowa State University majoring in culinary science.