RAYTOWN, Mo. — Some Kansas City-area students will have a chance next month to earn nearly $2 million in scholarships toward a career in restaurants and hospitality next weekend.

Herndon Career Center in Raytown already won Missouri’s competition both in culinary and management earning $12,000 in scholarships for each of the nine students.

Now Herndon Career Center is heading to Washington D.C. for the National ProStart Invitational on May 6-8. It’s an hourlong culinary competition that’s just as intense as anything you see on TV.

From the moment the four chefs sharpen their knives, it’s a rush to the finish with no time to waste. A team timekeeper watches over the process.

“Not at all I have to be doing multiple things at once,” Hannah McHenry said as she prepared a petite gateaux of almond joconde layered with dark chocolate ganache, Morello cherry jam and dulcey ganache topped with a toasted almond crisp accompanied with a cherry compote.

While the chefs are busy whisking glazes and mashing pistachios for the pistachi pan roasted beef tenderloin served with a melange of braised vanilla vegetables, potato pave and sassafras reduction, four business managers are preparing their presentation for their food truck.

“As head of event planning, I’ll be in charge of contacting local venues, expos and event spaces,” one student said.

There’s a lot on the line.

“They are playing for full ride scholarships, life changing opportunities,” Chef Mike Chrostowski said.

Herndon culinary students have earned $3.5 million in scholarships the past 4 years.  The team finished tops in the nation in 2018 and second in 2019. They also qualified for nationals in 2020 but the competition was wiped out by the pandemic the past two years.

“Students come here for 2.5 hours, five days a week and they learn everything the need to know about hospitality from sanitation and food safety to cooking methods knife cuts and everything  in between,” Chrostowski said.

“Starting on egg whites,” McHenry announces.

“Thank you,” the team responds as someone shouts 26 minutes.

Twenty-four judges watch their every move the entire hour.

“Things you should be doing to survive in a kitchen, communication sanitation using the right tool for the job, working as a team,” Chrostowski said.

“You get to actually put the plates together at the end, after spending an hour cooking it, kind of like a job well done,” Avery Dunn said at about the 8-minute mark.

When the final buzzer goes off it’s time to taste and critique the dishes blasted with flavor.

“The circle you see around the plate for the base of the salad is a spiralized beet,” Alex Fulson said describing her crispy jumbo lump crab croquettes with stone fruit and root salad with blood peach romesco and saffron tulie.

Herndon Career Center will compete against 42 teams nationwide May 6-8. Students on each winning team will be awarded $200,000 each in scholarships.