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The Utah Valley Convention Center was a pressure cooker for the ProStart students during the ProStart competition; every student brought their A-game to craft their most ambrosial and appetizing dishes. However, the competition is bittersweet for Provo High’s ProStart team, regardless of how delicious their dish was, saying goodbye to the Prolific ProStart and Culinary Teacher Diane Cluff.

For those who may not be familiar, ProStart is a nationwide culinary competition that challenges high school students to showcase their cooking skills and knowledge of the restaurant industry. It’s a high-stakes event requiring precision, creativity, and teamwork.

The challenge divides culinary and management teams, and the culinary event is on full display for interested onlookers. Each competition sees twelve working stations house more than twenty teams as they cook in real-time for the outcropping crowd of friends and family seated behind velvet belts. Students are performing for and against the crowd. Crowds holler cheers and chants as teachers slump away, biting nails.

Provo High School’s students stood by their long-standing Foods Teacher, Diane Cluff. She wears a heavily embroidered lapel marking her years at state and nationals. Cluff is a prolific Teacher– one student she taught now teaches at Alta, and the two compete yearly. Like many other teachers at the event, she contributed to the brick-and-mortar of our state’s top culinary hands.

In a blend of motion and cooking maneuvers, students took on a brisk-but-measured approach at the onset, searing, sauteing, pan-frying and more all whilst calling out instructions and directions to keep everyone involved and informed.

Watching the students work, it’s clear that there are few programs like ProStart. One is hard-pressed to recreate both the consuming project-planning and deadline-based workplace rigors you find in a professional environment; ProStart’s competition has both in spades. The lean, natural drama of quick-tempo and high-level techniques pulled off en media res is dazzling.

But just like in the kitchen, success in ProStart requires more than raw talent. It takes a seasoned mentor like Diane Cluff to guide and inspire our young chefs, teach them the secrets of the trade, and instill a love of cooking that goes beyond the competition. Diane has been the backbone of our ProStart program for many years, and her impact on our students is immeasurable. Her dedication to her craft and her students is truly inspiring.

Parents, teachers, students, and family friends alike joined in a countdown, cheering past the close of the competition buzzer. Provo High’s coaches, many of whom are Diane’s old students, wipe their eyes, grinning all the same. Her student-turned-mentor coaches are a testament to Diane Cluff’s ability to foster lifelong bonds; she brings people to her table and makes them feel like family.

At the close of this year’s ProStart event, we want to thank Diane Cluff for making Provo High and the district a nurturing, nourishing home. We’ll miss her dearly, but we know she’ll always be a part of our culinary family.

Here’s to Diane, cooking queen and ProStart mentor extraordinaire. Congratulations to the ProStart students for an incredible year. And thank you, Diane Cluff, for sharing your passion, and helping families spanning generations discover a joy for cooking and taste for learning. We wish you all the best in your next culinary adventure and promise to keep you proud.

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei
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