NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The Wilbur Cross High School culinary team came first in the nation in the Restaurant Management Competition at Friday’s 2023 National ProStart Invitational. 

There were 92 teams competing against Wilbur Cross for the victory and almost $200,000 in scholarship money, with each first place winner receiving $7,000. Wilbur Cross had not come in first in the competition since 2018, finishing fourth in 2022. 

“The National ProStart Invitational is our nation’s premiere competition for the hospitality industry. It takes an incredible amount of dedication and passion to get into the top five and on stage at NPSI. Placing first is extremely difficult, ” says Jennifer Conkling-Schmitz, Foundation Director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. 

The students were tasked with creating a menu, theme, and management plan for a restaurant (including staffing shortages) as well as prepared a three-course meal in less than 60 minutes over two butane burners. 

The championship winning concept was imagined and executed by Wilbur Cross High students Charlotte Buterbaugh, Paulette Jara, Adam Sharqawe and Jailyn Gonzalez. The students created a menu inspired by food from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan for their West Asian themed restaurant called “Nafas Kitchen”. 

“This was an incredible week for the Connecticut hospitality industry as Wilbur Cross students brought a national championship back for not only their state, but also their home city of New Haven,” said Scott Dolch, President & CEO of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.