The Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation loves to follow the careers of students who passed through the doors of its ProStart program over the years. We are pleased to share with you some of their stories.


Joshua Walbolt: 
2019 Rising Star Chef Award

2018 Rising Star Chef Nominee

San Pellegrino Young Chef Nominee 2016

Owner R House, Chef de Cuisine Lat 14, Minneapolis

We find Chef Joshua Walbolt as he checks in as one of 24 culinary judges preparing to oversee and score the Minnesota ProStart Invitational featuring 14 high school teams competing for a chance to advance to the national competition through the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. This is a sort of homecoming, as it was six years ago when Chef Walbolt was taking these same first steps to what would launch his culinary career and his passion.    

Joshua began as a high school student at Elk River High School and was part of the school’s 2011 & 2012 ProStart programs that won the state level ProStart Invitational and advanced to the national competition. In his first year, he won 2nd place with his knife skills. Walbolt shares, "I would take any chance to practice my knife skills, go over my recipes and costing. My ProStart teammates would be frustrated as I often 

changed my mind on how to make a dish better." That drive and passion paid off. In 2018, Josh was named the Rising Star Chef by the Charlies, a Twin Cities restaurant award. “I got to the stage, looked out and thought, ‘I did it, we did it,’ It was a good feeling,” said Walbot. He grew up in the Twin Cities, but went to culinary school in New York, worked under Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, opened a restaurant for him in Orlando, and then came home training under local chefs Alex Roberts and Gavin Kaysen. All by the age of 25.

“After a while of cooking in the industry: French food is great, Japanese food is great, but who am I? Who am I as a chef? What am I going to cook to make as my statement to express myself really?” he asked. His most recent adventure at Lat 14 is a combination his personal history and professional background.


Chef Walbolt was excited to be part of the ProStart teams again – this time as a mentor. He knows the importance of having committed and skilled chefs in the classroom. His advice to students is to "ask questions, be patient and make goals."  He shares, "I knew what I liked and I pursued it. I love food and everything that is associated with it." He loves that every work day is different and you continue to learn. "There are great friends in this industry and they push you to become better."

What is next for Walbolt? In September, Josh left the Twin Cities to gain even more experience with esteemed New York chefs and establishments. We believe he will return soon to enhance the Twin Cities Food Revolution.

Maria Lewis: 

Operations Manager and Food Director, The Raw Deal Coffee Roaster

As a  graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Mariaearned her bachelors of science in hotel, restaurant, and tourism management. Upon graduation, she quickly secured a hospitality role as an event manager. Maria started on her path to hospitality as early as a high school junior when she was introduced to the ProStart program at Indus High School. She said, “ProStart is a well-rounded program that helped me learn knife skills and cooking techniques as well as costing methods.” Being a hands-on learner, she was able to master many culinary skills and participated in the Minnesota ProStart Invitational competition.  

To obtain her ProStart certification, Maria worked at various internships. She started at a small café as a line cook/barista/ waitress. She was then able to secure an internship at Minnesota’s Grand View Lodge in the Brainerd Lakes Area to round out her experiences in hospitality. Throughout her education, Maria sought out and valued networking opportunities. Through 

these connections she was able to meet new people and find opportunities.   


Maria applied for and received scholarships from HMEF throughout her time at UW-Stout. Maria states, “The scholarships enabled me to focus on my studies without having to work a full-time job just to keep myself in college. Because of this, I was also able to take full-credit semesters so that I could graduate in 3 1/2 years.


“What makes me most proud to be part of the industry is the fact that there are so many different segments in hospitality, but everyone is working to please the customer. We want to create outstanding experiences, and for me, these are created because I know how special it is when I experience an outstanding event or am served in an extraordinary manner. Hospitality is such a unique industry with an enormous variety of people to meet, both as coworkers and as clients. We all strive to be the best we can be.”


Anthony Cordoba: 
Marketing Associate for Sysco Minnesota - current 2019

Anthony was part of a winning team of ProStart students from Elk River High School. He was introduced to ProStart in 11th and 12th grades and shares that “ProStart was the stepping stone to the hospitality industry.’” Through his experience, he found a passion. “Cooking with fresh ingredients, getting critiqued, learning from honorable chefs, networking…it really gets your blood pumping.”

After attending Hennepin Technical  College’s Culinary Arts program, Anthony now has a career at Sysco Minnesota, a nationwide distributor of quality products to the food industry. In his role as a marketing associate, Anthony travels and assists restaurants as a consultant. In one case, he stepped into the role of Chef for a Kansas City restaurant that was launching its fourth site. He does a little bit of everything to assist his clients, such as analyzing menus, assisting with events/cooking, submitting orders and sourcing product.  

The ProStart program and teachers helped Anthony discover his passion. The ability to compete in theProStart Invitational gave him the “real test” on whether this was a career path for him. Absolutely it was. Anthony was awarded scholarships for placing second in the competition, which aided him in his post-secondary education.   

Jordan Lenz: 
Head chef for Anton's Restaurant, St. Cloud

Jordan is a 2011 alumnus of Sauk Rapids-Rice High School. He was part of both the culinary and management program for ProStart in his junior and senior years. Through this experience, he found a passion for a culinary career path and today, Jordan is the head chef for Anton’s Restaurant in St. Cloud. In this role, Jordan creates recipes, updates the menu offerings, hires staff, and orders/inventories restaurant supplies in addition to cooking.

Jordan gained his initial culinary skills from his high school ProStart classes. “I found something I was good at and pursued it,” Jordan said. The ProStart program set him up to succeed as he went on to post-secondary culinary school. Jordan entered the two-year program at St. Cloud Technical & Community College and earned an Associate in Applied Science degree. 

Through his ProStart coursework, Jordan was awarded financial scholarships from the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation. “Because of these (and other) scholarships, I was able to receive my degree, debt-free,” Jordan shares. He thoroughly enjoys his career and the challenges it presents.  Jordan’s advice to students is: “Follow your passion.” 

Candyce thompson.jpg

Candyce with celebrity chef Graham Elliott, cohost of Master Chef and Master Chef Jr., at an event she hosted at the Mall of America.

Candyce Thompson: 
Event & Convention Specialist, A&N Convention Services - current 2019

Candyce is a 2015 graduate from Johnson & Wales University with a degree in Sports/Entertainment/Event Management. She describes her career as rewarding, exciting and providing opportunities for growth. “I can’t see myself happy doing anything else besides working in the hospitality industry, I love working with people.” she states.

She began her path to the hospitality industry as a Sauk Rapids-Rice high school student participating in the ProStart program in grades 10-12.  “The ProStart program benefited me by providing knowledge and experience in both the culinary and management roles, and helped me to see the various career paths available within the industry.” Candyce shares.  

Besides her success in ProStart culinary and management competitions, Candyce also received scholarships from the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation. While attending college, she was also able to secure strong internship opportunities offering real world experience. She suggests that students get involved and volunteer with organizations to find internship roles.  

Future plans:  Candyce plans to continue to pursue her career in events and entertainment in Minnesota. She says, “My dream is to work for the Minnesota Wild, Vikings or in music festivals.”