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The Official Publication of the Illinois Restaurant Association
April 2016

Rochelle Trotter (pictured above with Chef Emeril Lagasse and culinary students) recently announced a six-figure scholarship endowment for IRAEF students on behalf of Charlie Trotter's Culinary Education Foundation.

Chef Charlie Trotter’s Vision Carries On Through IRAEF


In February, Charlie Trotter’s Culinary Education Foundation (CTCEF) entered a multi-year partnership with the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF), announcing a six-figure scholarship fund, now known as the “Charles & Rochelle Trotter Endowment Fund.” The late Chef Charlie Trotter paved the way for emerging chefs and placed great importance on serving the culinary community through CTCEF by encouraging youth in the pursuit of excellence. In the spirit of his "access equals opportunity" vision, the IRAEF will continue to evaluate scholarship applications in accordance with existing CTCEF guidelines, providing financial assistance to those who are most in need.

Since its inception in 1999, the CTCEF has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars for culinary student scholarships. The goal is to educate and expose youth to culinary arts in as many ways as possible, encouraging the enthusiastic pursuit of excellence. Rochelle Trotter, the Foundation’s Executive Director and wife of the late Chef Trotter explains, “Charles always felt that it was important to support youth who were interested in the culinary arts. Although a self-taught chef, he believed strongly in the value of education. The ‘gap’ identified when meeting with and speaking to young high school students always seemed to focus on two areas: exposure to the full range of culinary options and financing education.”

A crucial way to maintain the vitality of the restaurant industry is to continue investing in our youth through financial support and exposure to programming, helping to develop their passion, skill and commitment to the industry. One such example is former ProStart® student Aguster Reed, a soon-to-be graduate of Washburne Culinary Institute in Englewood and a recipient of the CTCEF scholarship. He showed a true level of commitment for the culinary arts that resonated with the CTCEF board, and the late Charlie Trotter’s vision, by completely immersing himself in the program. With his success, Aguster was invited to speak at “A Toast to Charlie Trotter,” the fundraiser held during Chicago Gourmet in September 2015 in support of CTCEF. He spoke of the impact the scholarship had on his life, and after his speech, IRA First Vice Chairman Jim Kallas, Division President at Eurest Dining, approached him. Soon after, Aguster interviewed for a position with Jim's company, and is now employed with Eurest Dining to the delight of the CTCEF board.

“Aguster is a prime example of why I love being ‘the Culinary Godmother’ for youth who have been a part of CTCEF,” Rochelle Trotter explains. “It’s what makes all the difference and keeps me committed to supporting IRAEF, while keeping the legacy of my late husband alive. I am truly impressed by the commitment of not only the students, but also the teacher ‘mentors’ who share their real-world experience and guidance to the student participants.”

The Endowment and new strategic partnership with the CTCEF allows the IRAEF’S ProStart® program to continue to focus on both skill development and hands-on competition elements that are extremely relevant in developing future culinary talent. The six-figure initial endowment will ensure continued need-based educational scholarships to foster the dreams and potential of young chefs. This long-term strategic partnership establishes a sole point of access for funding in honor and alignment with the CTCEF’s underlying mission.

“We are honored to receive such a generous endowment to continue the enhancement of our industry’s next generation,” said IRAEF Executive Director Kathy Summers. “The IRAEF looks forward to continuing to honor Charlie Trotter’s legacy of supporting youth in communities across Illinois.”

All scholarship management will be transitioned to IRAEF as of mid-2016 with eight to ten scholarships awarded each year in $2,500 increments. Students may re-apply each year, for a maximum cumulative amount of $10,000 per student.

For more information about the Charlie Trotter’s Culinary Education Foundation, visit


For more information on IRAEF scholarships, please visit the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation scholarships webpage

Flavor Profile

Meet Cory Morris, Chef de Cuisine at Rural Society

This month, the IRA caught up with Cory Morris, Chef de Cuisine of the wildly popular Rural Society restaurant and a champion of the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and the ProStart® program. He shared insights on his experiences working with ProStart® students, and the benefits the program offers to Illinois’ next generation.

  • Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?
    • I have been cooking for 16 years. I earned my first executive chef position at the age of 21. I have worked all over the United States  in Montana, Utah, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Wyoming. Working in these various places helped me to become a well-rounded chef. I’ve worked everywhere from ski resorts and private clubs, to independent restaurants, large chains, and fine dining.
  • What is the greatest benefit of working with students?
    • The students are in the ProStart® program because they are truly dedicated to the craft. It's easier and more enjoyable to teach people who are hungry for knowledge. Being one of the students’ first exposures to the industry gives me a chance to build a professional relationship with them and hopefully hire them when they’re ready.
  • What do you see in ProStart® students? Why be involved?
    • I see so much dedication from all of them and I choose to be involved so that I can be a mentor who can help guide them in the right direction.
  • What’s the benefit of hiring ProStart® students for summer jobs?
    • The restaurant industry booms in the summer, and it’s the perfect time for them to learn.
  • What do you think the students learn under your guidance?
    • I think they realize how a demanding the industry can be. But I hope that they also get a taste of how very rewarding it can be.
  • Do you have any advice for these students and all aspiring restaurateurs?
    • Yes - you will get out what you put in!

  • What are you looking forward to in 2016 with ProStart®?
    • Every year I am impressed with the constant evolution of the cooking ability that ProStart® students bring to the table. I’m looking forward to seeing the growth they have made and continuing to help shape their development as future industry leaders.

Visit to learn more about Chef Cory Morris and Rural Society.



Invest in the Future of Your Business


Each year, the IRA and NRA host our Annual Political Reception in conjunction with the NRA Show at McCormick Place. At a time when the restaurant world converges to Chicago to explore and learn about the latest trends and dynamics of the foodservice industry, the IRA PAC is working to support elected officials and candidates that understand how important the restaurant industry is to the state of Illinois.

We support pragmatic candidates and elected officials on both sides of the aisle and pool resources from restaurants and individuals throughout Illinois in order to support candidates for state and federal office who believe in and support pro-industry and pro-business issues.

The bottom line is, with such an enormous impact in our state and across the U.S., restaurants need to continue to have a strong voice in Springfield and in Washington. This is the perfect time to get involved. We hope that you will join us on Monday, May 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Studio Paris. The event will feature a silent auction, special guests, and great food and drink.

Tickets are available for $250, and the host committee is currently in formation.

Click here download the event invite or email for more information about attending or contributing to the event.

A La Carte

HMSHost, ProStart® and the Rewards of Mentorship


HMSHost is part of Autogrill S.p.A., the world’s largest provider of food and beverage services for travelers. Along with the rest of the Autogrill Group, HMSHost is comprised of recognized industry leaders who create innovative dining locations at airports and on motorways worldwide, offering travelers an unparalleled blend of local, regional and international brands. HMSHost is an esteemed partner of the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, working with various Chicago Public Schools to mentor tomorrow’s industry leaders.

Continued Student Sponsorship
HMSHost began their involvement with the IRAEF’s ProStart® program three years ago. Since then, the organization has proudly sponsored three Chicago Public Schools—Fenger Academy High School, Benito Juarez Community Academy High School and Theodore Roosevelt High School—all of which benefit from the outstanding program that works to prepare future leaders in our industry.

At the start of their sponsorship, HMSHost facilitated hands-on, group discussions with students, outlining best practices for obtaining employment. These sessions provided guidance on creating a resume, practicing interview skills and what to expect when beginning a new job. The food and beverage service provider also provides the opportunity to participate in paid internships at O’Hare. For many students, the internships serve as their first glimpse into the professional world, exposing them to various components of the food and beverage industry—from prep and line cook roles to working alongside shift supervisors.

ProStart® Invitational Success
One of HMSHost’s biggest successes since getting involved is working with students at Benito Juarez for the Annual ProStart® Student Invitational in Chicago. During HMSHost’s first year of participating in the program, Juarez assembled a team to compete in the Invitational, where they finished in ninth place. The second year, however, HMSHost took a very proactive stance and practiced with the students after school to hone and sharpen their skills and techniques. HMSHost Food & Beverage Director Bradley Maher recalls, “That year, when we really took an active role, the Juarez students finished in second place! We felt overwhelming pride for the team’s growth and accomplishments and it’s incredibly rewarding to have been a part of their success.”

Year-Round Initiatives
HMSHost’s involvement with ProStart® is year-round, as they host field trips for students to tour the food & beverage operations at O’Hare International Airport. After the tour, HMSHost sponsors have a working lunch with the students, discussing the experience and answering any student questions. Maher explains, “The students are always very engaged, ask smart questions, and receive first-hand exposure to complex operations. They always seem to leave with smiles on their faces.”

HMSHost also offers scholarships to select graduating seniors as they continue their education at the college level. Over the last three years, they have awarded $35,000 in scholarships to deserving students. “It is our responsibility to help prepare the next group of strong future leaders in our industry,” Maher says. “Working with ProStart® students allows us to have an impact on that future.”

For more information about HMSHost, visit



Engaging the Culinary Leaders of Tomorrow: SAVOR . . . Chicago at McCormick Place


At McCormick Place, the foodservice company SAVOR . . . looks to the future from a vantage point that is anchored by an array of culinary, service, and sustainability experience. One of the keys to the SAVOR . . . vision for the future is the ability to connect with students in the Chicago Public Schools system that are interested in careers in the hospitality industry.

SAVOR . . . engages with students by supporting three different programs that are offered through the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart® program.

In March 2016, students spent a day at McCormick meeting with the SAVOR . . . management team, who provided an overview of what it’s like to prepare and serve food to groups of all sizes – from 10 to 10,000. Beyond the informational session, students also had the opportunity to prepare their own lunch and were guided through the process of setting a room for a buffet banquet by Banquet Director Eugene Gorleku. SAVOR . . . Culinary Director Michael Kingsley also shared his talents and showed students how to prepare a two-course meal. Later that afternoon, they received tips from HR Director Melita Moore on how to prepare for a job interview. The day closed with an informative session with the SAVOR . . . Vice President of Culinary, Doug Bradley, as he detailed the types of decisions they will face as culinarians such as encouraging sustainability, building menus to reflect changing eating habits, preparing authentic cuisine for increasingly sophisticated customers.

This summer, SAVOR . . . will offer two student internships that are designed specifically for students pursuing culinary careers. In a program that is coordinated by Kevin Jezewski, SAVOR . . . Assistant Food and Beverage Director, these students will join the kitchen workforce and have an opportunity to gain real-life experience by preparing food for conventions, utilizing produce from McCormick Place’s 2.5-acre rooftop garden. At the end of their program, the students will prepare a meal for the Senior Leadership for McCormick Place, using the knowledge they have gained over the summer.

Each February, the ProStart® Invitational is held at McCormick Place. The statewide competition offers twelve Illinois high school teams the chance to compete in culinary and managerial categories. The winners from each category are given the opportunity to represent Illinois in the National Competition with teams from across the US, as well as Guam and European Military Bases.

When asked about the partnership between ProStart® and SAVOR . . ., VP of Culinary Doug Bradley commented, “At McCormick Place we have the chance to provide food and service that represents Chicago’s food vision to the rest of the United States and the world. A key element of that vision is how we mentor and provide opportunities to the next generation to enjoy the same careers in the food business that we have, and ProStart® is the perfect partner for SAVOR . . .to accomplish that goal.”

For more information about SAVOR . . .Chicago at McCormick Place, visit

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