June 14, 2013
From brookfield-wi.patch.com: “WCTC’s Career Quest designed for middle school students” – Waukesha County Technical College will host Career Quest, an opportunity for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to get a closer look at what skills and qualifications are needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
The three-day summer exploration will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 6, 7 and 8, at WCTC’s main campus in Pewaukee.
Middle school students will be introduced to a variety of careers – including those in Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Metal Fabrication/Welding, Cosmetology and many more — and learn about the education and training needed for those jobs. Cost of the event is $100 per student. Sessions run from at 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; lunch and snacks will be provided. Registration ends June 28, and the sessions will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited!
From the options below, students can choose two career sessions to explore: • Future of Nursing (Nursing) • What’s Up, Doc? (Medical Assistant) • Authorized Personnel Only! (Surgical Technology) • To Protect and Serve — CSI style (Criminal Justice) • Emergency! (Firefighting/EMT) • Fuse it Together (Metal Fabrication/Welding) • Precision Parts (CNC Manufacturing) • Explore Robotics (Automation Systems Technology) • Baking Quest (Baking/Pastry) • Culinary Quest (Culinary Management) • The Art of Play (Early Childhood) • Spa Day (Cosmetology)
For details on career sessions, to learn more about Career Quest and to register, visit http://www.wctc.edu/career-quest. For questions, contact John Pritchett, Career Quest coordinator, at 262.695.7847 or email@example.com.
June 12, 2013
From 620wtmj.com: “MATC offers free culinary camps for students” – MILWAUKEE - Some local high school students can learn how to be masters in the kitchen, for free. MATC is offering two free week-long culinary camps starting next week.
MATC culinary arts instructor Mary Dess, along with student Maria Nasby, who attended two summers ago, talk about the culinary camps.
June 12, 2013
From gazettextra.com: “Tech Knowledge College shifting focus to high school students” – ROCK TOWNSHIP — Tech Knowledge College will be reborn this summer, but this time it’s for disadvantaged high school students rather than middle-schoolers.
The pre-college summer program at Blackhawk Technical College’s central campus gave middle-schoolers a hands-on feel for programs the campus offered. It continued for many years but died as part of belt-tightening measures in 2012. The new program will have the same name, but it will focus on sharpening high school students’ math and English skills so they can do well on college-entrance exams and become better prepared for college, said Stephanie Williams, student engagement coordinator.
National studies have shown that upwards of 60 percent of high school graduates who enter community colleges need remedial classes before they can take college-level courses in math and English.
At Blackhawk Technical College, 57.7 percent of the 2012 high school graduates who enrolled last fall needed remedial coursework in writing, as determined by entrance tests. Of those same students, 45.7 percent needed remediation in math and 33.7 percent in reading. Tech Knowledge College would benefit any student that plans on attending any college or university, Williams said.
The program, funded through the state Department of Public Instruction, will be able to take 80 students, divided into two sessions, Williams said. Tech Knowledge College Camp will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the weeks of July 8-12 and July 22-26. The program is free to students entering ninth, 10, 11th or 12th grades this fall and who meet household income guidelines.
Campers also will be able to explore two of five Blackhawk Technical College program options. They can choose from culinary arts, health care, information technology, welding and public safety.
Students will begin the camp with a test so they know where they need to improve, Williams said. The program is open to any income-eligible high school student in the college’s district, which comprises most of Rock and Green counties. Free bus transportation will be provided each day from Beloit Memorial, Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker high schools. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Program availability will be determined on a first-come, first-served basis until each camp is filled.
April 23, 2013
From wiscnews.com: “Waupun students offered new science options” – WAUPUN — Students at Waupun Area Junior/Senior High School are enrolling in several new, advanced courses for next year.
Two courses build on the engineering curriculum introduced at the junior high this year, and another introduces students to biomedical sciences. One course provides another opportunity for students to earn Moraine Park Technical College credit and two others develop skills that can help students get a job right out of high school.
In the art department, students can earn both high school credit and technical college credit by taking Introduction to Photoshop.
Students who are interested in working in the restaurant, food, and beverage career pathway can sign up for Culinary Arts and Advanced Culinary Arts to learn the basic trade of the culinary arts industry and prepare them for a potential career in this field.
In the business department, students can sign up for a new course called Computer Hardware and IT Essentials.
The high school is offering three Project Lead the Way courses. The courses are a project and problem-based comprehensive curriculum that is developed and updated by subject matter experts – including teachers, university educators, engineering and biomedical professionals, and school administrators. The hands-on learning engages students on multiple levels, exposes them to areas of study that they may not otherwise pursue, and provides them with a foundation and proven path to post-secondary training and career success in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
The science department is offering Principles of Biomedical Sciences, the foundational course in the biomedical sequence. Eighty-five students have signed up for this course.
In the technology education department, Introduction to Engineering Design and Principles of Engineering are being offered for the first time. In the IED class, students will use industry standard 3D modeling software. POE students will encounter major engineering concepts such as mechanisms, energy, statics, materials, and kinematics. The classes build on the skills introduced to all seventh and eighth graders at the junior high this past year.
April 16, 2013
From onmilwaukee.com: “The Weekly Nibble: Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge Returns” – Even if you’re paying close attention, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with the latest in food news here in Milwaukee. So here’s a taste of what’s new and notable – with news about a contest for food entrepreneurs, news from Pizza Man, an anniversary celebration for Pizzeria Piccola, a cheese dinner and a charcuterie competition.
Got a great food idea? You might be the next Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur
Thanks to the support provided by the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur competition, 2012 winner Bree Schumacher effectively launched her line of healthful family-friendly products, Busy Bree’s kale-based dinner starters, to grocery stores across the Midwest.
This year, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services are joining forces again to launch the second Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, a regional contest to find the next great food entrepreneur.
In addition to the adult category, this year Wisconsin teens ages 14-18 are invited to enter for a chance to kick-start their culinary dream career.
Adult entries are eligible to win $2,500 in seed money, a business consultation package from MATC and FaB Milwaukee and set of professional cookware from Boelter. Teen winners will receive a $1,000 MATC scholarship, $500 in seed money from Reliable Water Services and a set of professional cookware.
Both adult and teen aspiring chefs and home cooks throughout Wisconsin can enter at hotwater247.com by submitting a short application and a photo of their recipe or product concept. Entry deadline is May 17.
April 1, 2013
From whby.com: “FVTC wins financial literacy award” – Two years ago, Fox Valley Technical College created a program that helps people budget for the future, in case they lose their job, and the state is taking notice.
The school is receiving a Financial Literacy award for its Financial Wellness Center.
Patti Jorgensen is Fox Valley Tech’s vice president of community development. She says financial planning isn’t always a topic that people think about. She says people were slow to sign up when the program first started, but now they serve between 300 and 400 per year.
Jorgensen says they require people to get financial planning help, if they request emergency funding or lose their financial aid.
March 18, 2013
From journaltimes.com: “Referendum includes new Racine water lab” –
RACINE — A new culinary arts program at Walworth County’s Gateway Technical College campus, expanded interior design studio space in Kenosha County and a new freshwater resource lab on Racine’s campus could all soon become a reality.
They are all part of a $49 million referendum that includes extensive remodeling, new construction to create labs for new degrees and current programs in Gateway’s three-county region. While a proposed $15.6 million public safety training center is the largest part of the $49 million referendum, expanding and creating space for new programs accounts for much of the rest of it.
Voters in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties will see the referendum on the ballot April 2.
While demand for welders and machinists has been well-publicized, there is also demand for other jobs with technical degrees, according to GTC President Bryan Albrecht. But Gateway doesn’t have the necessary facilities to meet future community needs, he said.
“These aren’t projects that someone at Gateway just decided would be nice to do,” Albrecht said. “Every project goes through an assessment, a screening process, a reflection by business and industry, (and) a comparison with data in the region.”
Racine’s water lab
Throughout the world, water is becoming a major issue, and in particular there has been an emphasis on these issues in southeastern Wisconsin, said Dennis Sherwood, Gateway’s dean of manufacturing, engineering and transportation. To help train students in the field, GTC has proposed creating a new freshwater research lab on Racine’s campus in an open area in the Technical Building.
It’s estimated cost will be $800,000 in renovations and equipment.
“Freshwater is, for lack of a better word, drying up,” Sherwood said. Gateway’s role is to train students in field testing, lab testing and helping engineering companies comply with water and wetland requirements, Sherwood said.
Gateway now offers some water classes at the college’s newly expanded SC Johnson iMET Center in Sturtevant. But the program doesn’t have its own lab, Sherwood said. The instructor has to set up equipment and take it down, Sherwood said, rather than keeping it in one set place, which a new lab would allow.
At this time, Sherwood said, “I cannot sit and tell you right now there is huge (job) demand, but it’s growing because as issues come up around the country you are starting to see more and more emphasis on freshwater.” Sherwood said it’s important to be “proactive versus reactive.” On the reactive side, you hear employers say we cannot get enough employees and cannot progress, he said. But for water, “we know this is coming, because look at all the issues worldwide.”
Walworth’s tourism industry
Besides the expanding water emphasis, Albrecht said in the western part of Gateway’s coverage area in Walworth County, there is an expanding tourism industry. Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan recently reopened, Abbey Resort in Fontana was renovated and Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva is continually investing in its facility, said Mike Van Den Bosch, Walworth County Economic Development Alliance’s executive director. He has heard from businesses about the need for employees with culinary arts backgrounds. Currently, Gateway students in the Lake Geneva area need to travel to Racine to get that training, Albrecht said, but if the referendum was approved the college could build the needed area to offer those classes in Walworth County. Along with culinary arts, Albrecht also said there is a demand for cosmetology graduates because of tourism. Many of the resorts, for instance, also have spas.
Also, both research and area employers indicate a demand for food-quality lab technicians and veterinary technicians. But the college currently doesn’t offer either of those degrees at any of its three campuses.
While the biggest program expansions are planned for Walworth County, all three counties have projects that contribute to the $49 million referendum.
At Kenosha’s campus, there is need for new interior design space, Albrecht said. The campus is at capacity, plus the students’ work area doesn’t have proper ventilation, Albrecht said. Working in there is like having students work in an art room without proper ventilation, he said.
“It gets intense,” Albrecht said.
Albrecht also said without renovations, Gateway plans to stop offering either barbering or cosmetology on Kenosha’s campus. Recent state Department of Licensing regulations created two separate licenses for cosmetology and barbering, and there are different requirements regarding health and hygiene that affect the lab designations, according to Jayne Herring, Gateway’s marketing director.
Albrecht said there is need for students graduating with these degrees and available jobs. For instance, approximately half of Gateway’s interior design and cosmetology/barbering students who responded to a 2011 graduate survey reported getting jobs in their field. Interior design jobs included designer, textile librarian and business owner. Barber and cosmetology jobs included barber, hairstylist and nail technicians.
If it fails
If the referendum passes, Albrecht said construction on projects could start as soon as this summer. But if it fails, Albrecht said it could take a decade or more to complete expansions, because Gateway is limited in how much it can annually borrow.
Racine’s water resource lab is a priority, Albrecht said, but every year there is competition with other projects and has no control over some costs, such as repairing a broken elevator.
It’s like repairing your home, he said: It’s one thing after another.
March 14, 2013
From madison.com: “MATC scales back plan for culinary school” – Plans to build a Downtown home for Madison Area Technical College’s Culinary and Baking Institute have been scaled back after a funding shortfall prompted college officials to reconsider a new building next to its Downtown campus.
Instead, the college will pursue renovations to its existing building at 211 N. Carroll St. The plans, though preliminary, still would allow the Culinary and Baking Institute to move from the college’s East Side Truax campus to the Downtown location, but they fall short of the standalone building originally sought.
Last April, the college’s District Board unanimously approved plans for a new three-story building that would house a retail bakery, dining room and demonstration kitchen, all to be prominently displayed through windows on the corner of West Johnson Street and Wisconsin Avenue.
But with the cost of bids and contingencies totaling $14.6 million, the college was facing a $2.6 million shortfall for the project to be funded with leftover referendum money. Revisions to make the standalone building fit within budget constraints would have left the Culinary and Baking Institute less space than desired, so MATC facilities director Mike Stark suggested renovating the college’s Downtown building to include the culinary school.
“We knew as we were trying to downsize things to fit within our budget, all along it was shrinking, trying to save space,” Stark said. “It would have worked, but there would have been no room to grow.”
District Board member Joel Winn questioned why the college couldn’t raise enough money to make up the original project’s shortfall, but MATC President Bettsey Barhorst said the new proposal would be beneficial to more than just culinary students and faculty.
“When we looked at the possibility of doing it inside the building, we realized how much better that was for everyone — not just this one program,” Barhorst said.
Under Stark’s tentative plan, some of the programs at the Downtown building would be moved to make way for construction of the culinary school, and renovations of the remainder of the building would follow.
February 18, 2013
From acfchefs.org: “Milwaukee Area Technical College receives programmatic accreditations from the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation” — Two culinary programs at Milwaukee Area Technical College, Milwaukee, received programmatic accreditation by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF) Accrediting Commission in July.
ACFEF programmatic accreditation was granted to Milwaukee Area Technical College for its AAS degree in baking and pastry, and its AAS degree in culinary arts, initially accredited in 1987, was renewed. The accreditations will expire June 30, 2014, and June 30, 2016, respectively.
“The Accrediting Commission evaluates faculty, curriculum, facilities, student services and administrative capability to ensure that the programs promote successful student outcomes,” said Rob Hudson, CEC, CCE, AAC, ACFEF Accrediting Commission chair. “We are proud to recognize Milwaukee Area Technical College’s programs as ACFEF accredited.”
ACFEF programmatic accreditation assures that a program is meeting at least a minimum amount of standards and competencies set for faculty, curriculum and student services. Accreditation ensures that the program follows established standards, has accountability and credibility standards, and maintains a high level of professionalism and up-to-date practices.
Accreditation by the ACFEF Accrediting Commission of a program at an institution is voluntary. To receive accreditation, a program must first submit a self-study. Then, a three-member team performs an on-site evaluation to validate the information submitted in the self-study, which is compiled into a team report. Next, the Accrediting Commission reviews the report, along with the institution’s self-study, and decides if accreditation will be granted and for how long. An initial grant is for three or five years, while a renewal grant is for three, five or seven years. There are currently 392 postsecondary accredited programs and 144 secondary certified programs in 351 institutions accredited by the ACFEF Accrediting Commission worldwide. The ACFEF Accrediting Commission, recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation since 1998, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2012.
January 25, 2013
From postcrescent.com: “Newsmakers Q & A Fox Valley Technical College unveils new culinary arts theater” – Culinary arts instructors at Fox Valley Technical College have a new teaching tool: the Jones Dairy Farm Culinary Theatre.
The theater is a tiered classroom with an industrial demonstration kitchen. It seats about 120 people and it’s loaded with the latest in technology and food service equipment.
Mike Ciske, FVTC’s food services director, spoke last week about the new theater on Newsmakers, The Post-Crescent’s online issues show. Here’s an edited transcript of the interview.
Can you go through some of the different cooking techniques you can practice in the theater?
We have everything from induction cooking to traditional broilers, griddles, gas stovetops, convection ovens, steamers — all industrial-grade, all restaurant-style cookware so that, when the students are in there or there are community-based events, they’ll be able to see things as they would happen in a traditional restaurant or hotel kitchen. So from that standpoint, they’ll be able to take the things they see and take them back into their labs, and be able to do them on the exact same type of equipment.
The theater does look like something off the Food Network. Can you describe the technology?
The 120 seats are tiered, and students have the advantage of three very large LED monitors that will show one of three camera feeds that are located above the cooking areas or in the back of the room. No matter where you’re seated, you’re going to get a good view. And the cameras can zoom in, so you can basically see the head of a pin on the monitors. From a cooking standpoint, you can see tails on a shrimp as if you were looking at a cookbook.
What kind of advantage will the theater give culinary arts students?
I think it does a couple of things. The popularity of the Food Network and cooking shows on TV are part of the reason we’ve had such a groundswell of new students in the culinary arts. This really brings that home for them, and engages the student who is four or five rows back and can see things and smell things. That theatricality really keeps students engaged in their education.
It also gives them the opportunity to jump behind the counter, jump behind the demo table and work on those skills — their people skills, their soft skills, their ability to share their knowledge, which is what their employers are looking for. They’re not only looking for skilled culinarians, they’re looking for people who can teach their skills as well. This is one way for them to learn that in a safe way, among their peers.
The new theater cost about $1.8 million to build, and was not part of the referendum at FVTC. How was this program funded? What part did Jones Dairy Farm have to play?
Jones is a very old, family-run business in Fort Atkinson. I had some ties with the farm, and we’ve had a long relationship with them. They were looking for a way to give back to the community — the restaurant community, the hospitality community. Through the course of two or three years, we just kept in touch and showed them what we do at Fox Valley Tech. Eventually, they came up with a challenge grant, then it was up to us to match that. That was the exciting part. It was challenging, but it allowed us to reach out to other industry partners, and get them on board with what we’re doing at the Tech.
It sounds like there was a lot of support from the restaurant industry in this area. When did they come forward?
We had over 30 donors of all different types, some of them quite large and some of them quite small. We got a tremendous amount of support from local restauranteurs, the lodging association, manufacturers. Wisconsin’s home to a ton of food and equipment manufacturers, and there were very few doors that Jeff (Igel, chair of the Culinary Arts & Hospitality Department at FVTC) and myself knocked on that we weren’t met with a very positive response. It was something we thought the school needed. We thought the students could really use it and put it to good use. The restaurant and hospitality industry are very forward-thinking that way. They’re very community involved, so that when something like this comes up, they really jump at the chance to get involved.
Will FVTC use the theater for public cooking classes?
Yes, and those classes are in the works right now. I’d imagine that a few will be offered in the spring, and I’d imagine they could range from evenings, to weekends. The theater is pretty busy during the week, with cooking classes and other FVTC uses, but I can see it being available to the community quite a bit for classes, presentations, any type of event that would need a theater. It’s very multipurpose, and I think it’s limitless what we could see in there.
January 11, 2013
From wtaq.com: “Wisconsin’s only culinary theatre unveiled at Fox Valley Tech” – GRAND CHUTE, WI (WTAQ) - Students at Fox Valley Technical College will now take classes in Wisconsin’s first and only culinary theatre.
Officials unveiled the $1.8 million Jones Dairy Farm Culinary Theatre, an 8,500-square foot state-of-the-art facility to the media Thursday.
“We took every conceivable cooking delivery system, we tried to put every piece of equipment that we could possibly need to teach cooking to our students,” says Department Chair Cheff Jeff Igel. “And we put it in an environment where they’re comfortable.”
It has five-tiered rows capable of holding 120 students at one time to watch faculty at the school demonstrate cooking methods on high-tech equipment using video cameras and projection screens.
“We can max out at 150 (people), it’s not bad, it’s like Lambeau Field,” Igel says.
The facility ws funded in part by private donations, including a lead gift from Jones Dairy Farm. The theater will also be open for public use and for folks looking to sharpen their home cooking skills.
Igel says their goal was to enhance student learning for Wisconsin’s largest training provider of culinary arts.
“To be able to stand and see all of your students without looking through heads or around aisles,” says Igel. “We get a lot of eye contact, we can personalize the class one-on-one and it’s easier to take questions.”
Students will formally begin to take classes in the culinary theatre on Monday.
November 21, 2012
From jsonline.com: “WCTC students make turkey dinners for families” – As you dig in to your turkey and trimmings tomorrow, think about the fortunate recipients of 10 Thanksgiving meals prepared by culinary students at Waukesha County Technical College.
The students who roasted the turkeys and mixed the stuffing, cooked up the cranberries and glazed the carrots don’t know who the families are and don’t need to.
For once, instead of focusing on acquiring skills that will lead to a paycheck, and possibly – someday – a restaurant of their own, they were handed a chance to give to the community. For once, it wasn’t about dazzling diners, it wasn’t about the bottom line.
The charitable effort began last year when a staff member asked if the culinary classes could prepare two turkey dinners for needy families through the SPARKS Alliance, a United Way-funded program in Waukesha focused on increasing parental involvement.
“This year, I wanted to expand it,” said Jack Birren. “I have 17 students in each class. To have them make one turkey dinner seemed like a waste. If I’m already doing one, it’s just as easy to prep for five.”
So he asked and was granted permission to make and donate 10 meals this year.
Two meals again will go to SPARKS, destined for families from Hadfield Elementary School in Waukesha. The rest will be donated to the Food Pantry of Waukesha County for distribution to families on its list.
The meals – four built around a 14-pound turkey, to serve eight, and six featuring a turkey breast, to serve four – were prepared in two of Birren’s classes: five meals last Thursday and five more this Tuesday. In addition, the pastry instructor on Monday donated the corn bread his class already was scheduled to make.
The cost of the meals came out of Birren’s regular school food budget.
The turkeys and turkey breasts were carved up and frozen, along with the accompaniments: mashed potatoes, gravy (made from pan drippings), maple-glazed carrots, homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn bread. (No dessert this year – maybe next, Birren said.) The family recipients will be given instructions for thawing and reheating.
Birren said his students were excited by the opportunity.
“I always wanted to do something like this,” said Deanna Werner of Lannon as she mixed ingredients last Thursday for the stuffing, “but I never had much of an opportunity, being a student and working full time.”
Birren hopes the example set here will stick as the students graduate and build their careers.
Televised food shows have given a higher profile to chefs, he said. “I tell my students, take advantage of what national TV has done for our profession. You can have more of an impact in the community. Get your face out there and find a way to help.”
Preparing dinners to donate doesn’t just help the needy families; the culinary students at WCTC also get hands-on experience preparing the biggest holiday meal of the year, right before the holiday. They can take that expertise home to their families as they celebrate Thanksgiving.
The whole turkeys roasted for these meals were brined overnight, said Birren. Just before roasting, a mixture of softened butter, garlic and fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, etc.) was spread under the skin all over the bird. Then the cavity was stuffed with halved oranges and apples and more of the same herbs.
One advantage of a classroom kitchen is access to specialty equipment – like the combi oven that combines steam cooking and convection heat. Roasted in that oven, the 14-pound birds were crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, in just 1 hour and 20 minutes. (In a conventional oven, roasting would take about 3 ¾ hours.)
This is one recipe from the menu that’s easy to replicate at home. It’s reduced from the students’ recipe.
Whiskey Cranberry Sauce
1 pound whole cranberries
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon whiskey
4 ounces (one-third of a 12-ounce can) frozen apple juice concentrate
Juice and grated zest of 1 small orange (or two-thirds of a large orange)
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canned pineapple tidbits with juice
¾ cup granulated sugar
In saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then keep at a low simmer until sauce is reduced and thickened to desired consistency. Taste and add sugar if needed.
September 19, 2012
From fox11online.com: “MATC opens student-run restaurant” – MILWAUKEE – A grand opening was held for “Cuisine”, Milwaukee Area Technical College’s student-run public restaurant.
The restaurant is open to the public for lunch Tuesdays through Thursdays and is a learning lab for MATC’s culinary arts program.
“Cuisine” is located on the first floor of the Main Building at the downtown Milwaukee MATC campus.
From nicoletcollege.edu: “Nicolet College Culinary Arts student wins national recipe contest, week-long trip to Italy” – How does spending a week in Italy on an all-expenses-paid culinary arts tour sound? Nicolet College student Stephanie Kaether will get to do just that this summer for being the grand prize winner in a national culinary competition sponsored by Johnsonville Sausage.
Her recipe for A Match Made in Heaven Manicotti was selected as the best from the hundreds of entries in Johnsonville’s Italian Inspiration recipe contest.
On top of the all-expenses-paid trip, Kaether will also get a $10,000 travel voucher, courtesy of Johnsonville Sausage, to spend as she likes during her travels.
Kaether, a Culinary Arts student at Nicolet, was driving home after a long day of classes when she got the phone call announcing the news.
“I couldn’t believe it. I had to pull over. I started crying. It was that awesome!” she said.
This summer she’ll redeem the grand prize and jet off to the Abruzzo region of Italy where she and a guest will immerse themselves in all things culinary.
This will include organized excursions such as A Chef’s Tour of Carunchio with a Pastry Workshop; a Dining the Abruzzese Way Gourmet Dinner; three hands-on cooking classes and workshops; a tour of an olive oil factory, and a visit to a fishing village where they will prepare the catch of the day.
A huge fan of Italian cooking, Kaether, from Rhinelander, submitted multiple recipes and photos of each of her creations to the contest, which centered around the use of Johnsonville Italian sausage in each dish.
Judges then reviewed the entries and whittled the submissions down to five finalists.
Remarkably, she had two of her dishes make the final five. It was the first time in the history of the contest that one individual had two entries make it to the finals, according to the judges.
“Even if I hadn’t won – and I really didn’t think I was going to – I would have been thrilled just to have two entries in the finals,” she said.
But win she did.
“Stephanie’s recipe for A Match Made in Manicotti Heaven is a great example of her impressive culinary skills – it not only tastes great and features a nice balance of flavors, it is also visually appealing,” said Bob Fitzgerald, Johnsonville Sausage brand manager.
In addition to the trip and $10,000, she also received a sizable gift basket from Johnsonville.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to need to buy Parmesan cheese again,” she said.
May 22, 2012
From fdlreporter.com: “Times may be tough, but Fond du Lac restaurants are thriving” – Fond du Lac is bucking a national trend when it comes to restaurants.
When times are tough, consumers start scrimping and saving instead of splurging at a restaurant. A Harris Poll released last week found that seven in 10 Americans, or 71 percent, are cooking more meals at home to save money. The poll also found that 57 percent of respondents used to eat out regularly, but now it’s a luxury.
In Fond du Lac, locals haven’t stopped supporting their favorite places. Restaurateurs and food educators say many factors — including more affordable restaurants, frugal spenders and family values — have driven sales despite the downturn.
Too busy to cook
Business dropped a little when the recession hit in 2008, but Fond du Lac residents still went out to eat, said Heather Linstrom, co-owner of Linstrom’s Catering in Fond du Lac and Seasons Restaurant in Peebles. They’re still dining out; Linstrom said she’s seeing “nice clientele and nice business.”
She said many people, especially families with two working parents, are so busy that they don’t have the time or energy to prepare home-cooked meals. By Friday night, it’s easier to take the kids out to eat.
“At the end of the week, they think ‘Can I afford to do it?’ The question is ‘Can you afford not to do it?’” she said.
In Fond du Lac, going out for dinner is a social occasion, she added. The weekly fish fry isn’t popular just because of the fish; it’s a chance for everyone to meet after a long, stressful week.
“People are passionate about family and food,” she said.
The ever-popular pizza had even more fans when the recession started, said Angie Antkowiak, who owns Ang an’ Eddie’s Pizza with her husband Eddie. The couple started the restaurant, at 7 14th St., in March, but has had a wholesale and consulting business for two years. During that time, the Antkowiaks talked to their restaurant clients, discovering that pizza was a way to feed a lot of people for not a lot of money.
The couple has restaurant experience — they ran Boxcar Eddie’s in North Fond du Lac for six years before closing due to health problems in the family.
So far, Ang an’ Eddie’s has been busy with orders. Pickups are very popular, Antkowiak said. Many customers are college-age to early 30s and have families.
They’re still cautious, using coupons and looking for deals whenever possible, she said. But after sacrificing so much, consumers are itching to spend a little on themselves.
“It’s one thing they can still do that isn’t that expensive, especially (ordering) pizza,” she said.
Pizza is a hit at Gino’s Italian Restaurant, 584 W. Johnson St. Jack Knipple, who owns the restaurant with his wife Jan, has noticed fewer customers since the economy slowed. Customers are also being more selective with their spending, but specials do drive sales. Half-price pizzas on Sunday and Monday are a big draw; the restaurant is selling record numbers of pizzas on those days, he said.
Customers have also signed up for text alerts for specials on their cell phones, Knipple said, another sign that they’re hungry for good food and good deals.
A healthy restaurant industry is welcome news for job seekers as well as customers. At Moraine Park Technical College, enrollment in the culinary arts program has never been higher, said instructor James Simmers.
He said the interest may stem from the popularity of cooking shows and networks. Shows like “Top Chef” illustrate what many are finding out about working with food.
“It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s stressful,” he said.
Simmers said cooks are in demand right now, and food science is a growing field. More companies are looking at ways to prepare healthier foods, including pre-packaged products. Those manufacturers are going to need workers skilled in food technology and research.
He added that food experts are going to be needed as people take greater interest in their food. They want to know where it comes from and how it’s handled.
Linstrom agreed that customers care about their food. It’s one of the reasons why Seasons Restaurant’s mission is to serve as many locally produced ingredients as possible.
It’s not just about trying to lose weight, Linstrom said, but also living with health conditions. More and more restaurant and catering customers are being diagnosed with celiac disease and other conditions that affect what they can eat. Linstrom said requests for gluten-free meals have spiked 50 percent from two years ago. Now, almost every event she caters requires a gluten-free option.
Does that mean the popularity of Wisconsin staples like cheese, beer and butter will diminish?
Absolutely not, Linstrom said.
From isthmus.com: “Downtown residents get a look at plans for Madison College culinary school” — At a meeting of downtown Madison’s Mansion Hill neighborhood association Monday night, representatives from Madison College and design company Strang presented preliminary plans for a new culinary education center located on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and West Johnson Street.
While just nine residents attended the meeting, the possible expansion was greeted with praise from most.
“This is going to be fun to have downtown,” said neighborhood steering committee member Gene Devitt.
Devitt said Strang has been “easy to work with” and open to criticism from the steering committee, and many suggestions were reflected in the plans presented Monday.
Originally, the expanded building was expected to take up 10,000 square feet, but Madison College public affairs manager Tim Casper said the plan was reduced to 8,250 square feet to accommodate some recommendations made by other committees.
Strang principal architect Peter Tan, who presented the plans at the meeting, highlighted large windowed areas on the street level, which will allow pedestrians walking by to look into the demonstration kitchen located on that floor.
The opportunity to bring the culinary school back to the downtown area presented itself because of a “competitive bidding climate,” which led to other building projects coming in under budget, according to Casper. The budget for the new building, which will house programs and courses related to culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, hotel and restaurant management, and meeting and event management, will be $8 million.
One issue that proved contentious was the plan for deliveries. Currently, the plan calls for trucks to come in off Dayton Street, where deliveries are already made to the current Madison College building. However, the Concourse Hotel is also on Dayton and some residents at the meeting expressed concern about traffic problems caused by trucks pulling in and out of the delivery zone.
One solution offered was to have the hotel and college coordinate delivery times to avoid overcrowding, which Casper said Madison College would be willing to talk to the Concourse about.
Madison College director of facility services Mike Stark assured the residents that most deliveries would happen in off-peak hours, usually before 8 a.m.
A second point of contention came when resident Fred Mohs questioned the design of the roof, which he worried would draw attention away from the rest of the building.
“This building shouldn’t be all about ‘what’s this thing on the roof?’” he said. “That can be an effective feature or a fiasco.”
But after Tan showed views of the structure from other angles and assured Mohs they “have the same goals” in the design of the roof, Mohs was “feeling better.”
The next steps for the project include approval from both the Urban Design Commission and the Wisconsin State Technical College Board. Casper hopes both of those committees give final approval at their July meetings.
If approved, the project will begin in November or December of this year, with plans to open for classes in January of 2014.
From wiscnews.com: “SUGAR RUSH: A Portage resident is a finalist for the American Culinary Federation’s Pastry Chef of the Year” – The cake came out of the oven with an obvious problem.
A crater had formed along the moon-like surface, putting a large dent in the masterpiece.
So like any young chef, Julia Julian fixed the problem with a ton of frosting to even out the top — creating a lake of sugary sweetness.
“There was nothing wrong with the flavor,” her mother Jackie said. “We would eat anything that was made.”
Julian was only 7 when she made her mom the birthday cake. But cooking wasn’t a passion yet.
“She was more into (raising) golden retrievers than cooking,” Jackie said.
But in a home where everything was made from scratch, the environment to learn about cooking and baking was ideal.
Almost two decades later, Julian is one of four chefs competing for the American Culinary Federation’s National Pastry Chef of the Year.
The Portage resident, who teaches at Madison College, won a regional competition April 14 in Detroit, creating a golden pineapple rum cake with passion fruit and mango sherbet.
“I didn’t expect to win. I wanted to go and experience what it would be like,” she said while taking a break from the college kitchens.
From her beginnings as a student at the college, Julian has made everything from a simple chocolate chip cookie to a 3-foot chocolate skyscraper.
But at nationals, competitors often focus on sugar work — blown sugar that becomes sweet art with a theme.
“The skill level can be very even, but (a contest) all comes down to who has the better game,” she said.
While she can create the type of desserts you see in pictures or on carts in fine restaurants, Julian still has simple sugar cravings like the rest of us.
“I tell my students, ‘I’m a baking instructor now, but I still eat a gas station doughnut,’” she said. “You’re not going to be blacklisted for stopping.”
Once a month during home schooling, Julian’s mother would pick a day for her kids to make something in the kitchen.
Home economics led to showing at the Columbia County Fair through 4-H.
But when Julian decided to go to college to study culinary arts, the idea was a bit of a surprise to her family. They knew, however, she always gives everything she has to succeed.
Julian picked a $40,000 a year school in Chicago and was accepted, paying the enrollment fees in advance.
But the realization of going to the school soon clicked.
“You can graduate with the fancy degree, but the reality of it, which most people don’t realize … you’ll be a line cook or a pastry chef for about nine or 10 dollars and hour, if you’re lucky,” the 25-year-old said.
So Julian decided to look closer to home.
“After meeting with instructors (at Madison College), that really changed my mind,” she said. “And I’m glad I went here.”
Julian wanted to be a chef who focused on elegant dishes, but a two-year wait list in the culinary program delayed that plan. She found herself on the baking side for the first year — eventually completing the culinary side, as well.
A quiet student early on in the program, Julian said she was never the one to be first to present in class.
“When I first had interest in the culinary program, or even the baking program, I wasn’t the one who said, ‘I’m going to be a line cook. I’m going to make this a career.’ I just loved baking and I loved cooking.”
Gaining experience through college and jobs at Krista’s Kitchen in Portage and a restaurant in the Dells, Julian graduated and found work at a country club in Illinois.
“I got a lot of experience, but it wasn’t quite my cup of tea,” she said. “And I was a little homesick.”
She found her way back to Madison College, finding a job in the cafeteria, which she said they jokingly refer to as No. 10 can land. But, she says, a lot of food is made from scratch.
Julian was offered a job as a culinary tutor for the school, and last fall she began teaching baking classes and theory.
Now she helps students find their way.
“Some people come in and have the passion for it and they kind of have shell shock when it’s not like cooking at home,” she said. “Because it’s not.”
Fast and furious
The first time she entered a cooking contest was four years ago as part of a college team.
“We came in last,” Julian said. “We didn’t even know how bad we were. I think everyone just congratulated us for showing up.”
Recently, however, the team took home a silver in the ACF’s hot food competition.
“It’s something that pushes me to keep learning,” Julian said. “It gets me out to see what other chefs are doing.”
Julian said she was happy just to be selected to the April regional pastry competition, which has a tough application process.
Everyone was given the same ingredients and knew that going in.
There was about an hour to plate four samples and 10 minutes to present to the judges.
“I probably practiced my dessert, completed how I was going to do it, about 10 times.”
“She always … goes above and beyond in what she does. She never just practices enough just to get by,” Jackie said.
But the national competition may be somewhat blind, with chefs not knowing the ingredients.
“I’m kind of scared spitless right now,” Julian joked.
Last year in the pastry competition, there was a plated dessert, a show piece with a fantasy theme, and a small petit four dessert.
“I’ve been thinking about all three of these things but not making anything too concrete.”
Julian said if she goes on to win the national competition in Florida, the honor would mean a lot to her, but the win would also be good for Madison College, which has never had a student or teacher win the award.
“We’ve been competing at this level for four years now,” said Paul Short, culinary program director for Madison College. “We entered this level of competition because we thought it would help our program get recognition for students who want to come here, but also companies pay attention to this kind of stuff.”
The program recently got another boost with the approval of an $8 million project to build a new home for the culinary school.
The three-story building on West Johnson Street and Wisconsin Avenue will house a dining room, demonstration kitchen and a retail bakery.
While she works part-time at the college, Julian also works for Sub-Zero and Wolf Appliances in Madison as a pastry chef.
“Now I make desserts for all the sales reps who come in,” she said.
May 3, 2012
From host.madison.com: “A room of her own: Where are the female executive chefs? – In mid-March, Francesca Hong joined a tiny, elite group in Madison.
At 23, she became the executive chef at 43 North, one of the only women in the city to hold such a top position and the only female to oversee an upscale kitchen downtown.
43 North, 108 King St., is a contemporary American bistro and part of the Restaurant Muramoto/Sushi Muramoto restaurant group. Hong has been a member of the kitchen team since the eatery opened in October 2010.
“You do have to fight to prove yourself a little bit more,” Hong said. “Even though I hate looking at it that way. I hate to think it’s harder for us, but I think in the end it’s true.”
Women bring something different to the business — a tendency to see their restaurant as an extension of themselves and their community, a strong belief in connections to local farmers, and a focus on caring for people. They can mentor young women coming into a male-dominated field, and they’re more likely to foster collaboration rather than a traditional kitchen hierarchy.
Despite a 50 percent increase in the number of female-owned restaurants in the decade between 1997 and 2007, as reported by the National Restaurant Association, women who run kitchens are still a stark minority, not even tracked by the trade association.
“When you find out why (women are) not being hired as executive chefs, please let me know,” said Paul Short, who runs the culinary arts program at Madison College (MATC).
About half of the graduates from MATC’s two-year culinary program are women, Short said, with “great skills.” They go into wine distribution and catering, become personal chefs, deli managers and cheesemakers.
“Why they’re not running top places, I’m not sure,” he said. “The talent I see is incredible.”
A main reason may be that families and a restaurant schedule don’t mix well.
While women are increasingly the primary or co-earner for their families, they’re also still the primary caregivers for children — in 2011, the census reported that nearly one in four married women with children younger than 15 stay at home with them.
“Restaurant work is so incredibly demanding,” Hong said. “I’ve already made some sacrifices … I want to balance career and family, and I think in the restaurant world it’s getting more and more difficult to do that.”
And the accolades tend to go to men. One of the highest culinary awards for chefs is given by the James Beard Foundation. Of 51 finalists this year, only seven are female.
The woman in the toque
Currently, Madison has just a handful of female executive chefs. For two years, Cory Richardson has been executive chef at Bishops Bay Country Club. Susan Hendrix co-owns and runs the kitchen at Sunprint Cafe, a breakfast and lunch place on the Capitol Square.
Melissa Strahota, a graduate of MATC’s culinary program, has been executive chef at The Fountain on State Street for three months.
The staff is small and money is tight, so she’s also a “line cook, a prep cook, a menu planner … I do ordering, I put everything away.”
“A lot of the women I have seen don’t get a foothold in kitchens because they don’t feel confident enough,” Strahota said. “It’s hard for restaurant owners to take it seriously … it’s accepted that men are the chefs.”
More common are women who work in pastry, like Elizabeth Dahl at Nostrano and Megan Belle at Harvest. Baking and dessert-making, fields more precise than working a line, are dominated by women.
“When I went into this I didn’t think about how unbalanced it would be,” said Belle, whose husband, Ian Stowell, is also a chef at Harvest. “It was how I got my foot in the door, and I ended up liking what I was doing.”
Tami Lax opened Harvest in 2000 after spending five and a half years (several as chef de cuisine) working for Odessa Piper at L’Etoile. There, Lax developed relationships with the restaurant’s purveyors, spending her day off harvesting with local farmers.
“It was work going to those farms and picking apples for 12 hours,” she said. “But you get done with the day and you’re like, this was awesome, the fresh air and birds and the smell of apples staining into your hands.
“That connection you make — for me, there’s not a better high.”
Women in the restaurant business are widely held to be less likely than their male counterparts to have their name on the door, and more interested in creating a symbiotic relationship between the front and the back of the house.
“I never know what’s gender and what’s personality,” said Nancy Christy, who owned Wilson Street Grill with Andrea Craig in downtown Madison for 14 years (1987-2001). “We had a desire to create an environment where we were mentoring our staff as well as leading and managing them.
“We had these beliefs about how you can create community, diversity in the work force.”
Christy recalled interns from culinary school telling stories about kitchens where, when a young cook turned her back, a chef would turn up the heat on her pots. It was a way of “keeping everybody on their toes,” Christy said.
“Is that how you want to learn cooking? Is that the environment you want?” she said. “Not me. … when I worked for Madame (Liane) Kuony, I quit when she pulled somebody’s hair.”
In a 2010 study, “Not One of the Guys: Women Chefs Redefining Gender in the Culinary Industry,” authors Deborah A. Harris and Patti Giuffre outlined still-held assumptions about women in professional kitchens.
“Common stereotypes are that women are not good leaders, are too emotional, and that they are not ‘cut out’ for male-dominated work,” the study says.
Respondents to the study — women with varying levels of professional experience — also posited that male chefs “were guided by the need to impress others while women were more driven by a need to please others.”
Piper told an interviewer in 1996, after 20 years at L’Etoile, that she tried to cultivate a “clean, beautiful, creativity-affirming workplace.”
Now, she thinks the number of women in kitchens naturally “ebbs and flows,” and that the gender of the person in charge is less relevant than the personality.
“I could be pretty tough when I wanted to be,” Piper said. “Women can be as macho as the best of them and men can be … collaborative or nurturing. It’s no longer the case that a certain type of behavior is owned by one gender or the other.
“Some of the most nurturing chefs I’ve ever worked with were men, who wouldn’t bully weakness or vulnerability. They see strong skills that needed to be coaxed out and given a creative, supportive environment.”
Others find that women tend to fare better with the shifting challenges at a restaurant. Jennie Capellaro, owner of the vegetarian Green Owl on the near east side, said two of her longtime “key people” are single mothers.
“There’s something about knowing how to feed people and provide for people,” said Capellaro. “It’s hard to explain … a calmer demeanor, being able to roll with things. Because they have to deal with a lot as moms, too, I think.”
At Harvest, Lax agreed.
“I always loved working with women in a kitchen,” Lax said. “It’s definitely a different energy than when you have a full male kitchen. A female kind of brings stability to the ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ syndrome that goes on.”
Simply seeing a female in the executive chef position can be encouraging for young women coming into the field. Strahota, who spent time at Angelo’s and Rosario’s in Monona, the Green Lantern in McFarland, and Sushi Muramoto, has only ever worked under male executive chefs. Hong said the same.
“I worshipped the cooks that were above me,” said Hong, who is still the only woman in her kitchen. “It’s strange to think of myself heading a kitchen now.”
Hong’s mentor and employer, chef/owner Shinji Muramoto, says Hong is one of only a few female chefs he’s employed. “We’ve never had many women chefs … you need to be strong, and there are long hours.
“Francesca, she really cares about the details of food. That’s a women thing, compared to men. She cares about the small details. I’m really glad to have Francesca as an executive chef. She’s very motivated and she cares about detail. So far she’s doing great.”
Christy says more young women are going into the field and they contact her regularly.
“What I would say is that traditionally there was a hierarchal (structure) in the kitchen, and women — we’re talking in stereotypes now — are less inclined to that environment and have branched out to find other vehicles for their craft and their art,” she said.
In her 2011 memoir “Blood, Bones and Butter,” Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef and owner at Prune in New York, recounted the “ongoing struggle to be female in a professional kitchen.”
“My entire work life, I had been working a double shift,” Hamilton wrote. “Constantly, vigilantly figuring out and calibrating my place in that kitchen with those guys to make a space for myself that was bearable and viable.
“Should I wear pink clogs or black steel-toe work shoes? Lipstick or Chapstick? … Swear like a line cook or giggle like a girl?”
As memorialized in Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential,” the back of the house is notorious for being a macho place where the cooks crack sex jokes while slaving away in 95-degree heat.
Time is tight and the stakes are high — make a customer wait too long for his food, overcook the chicken or under-season the soup, and that diner may never come back.
“It’s not a pretty job,” said Hendrix at Sunprint. “It’s not for a girly girl at all. … There are days when I wake up and think ‘What am I doing, I’m insane.’ Other days I think this is the best thing we could have ever done.”
Muramoto describes the rigors of the job: “For you to be a line cook, you’ve got to deal with flames and knives. Once you take a look at Francesca’s arms, you can tell. She has lots of scars from burning herself and cutting herself.
“That’s one thing that keeps them away — women don’t want to have the scars on their arms. Most men don’t care. They’re more proud of it.”
Madison’s female chefs and restaurateurs don’t talk about discrimination when they discuss the career that “chose them.” But many have swapped the idea of having a child for having a place where the food and atmosphere is an extension of themselves.
“If you want to own a restaurant and run a kitchen and also have a family, one of them will suffer,” said Hendrix, who has two cats but no children. “I don’t believe you can do both at the same time … unless you have a great husband who is going to be a house husband to help take care of the kids and raise them and do the things moms do.
“The demands of a restaurant are so varied and so diverse and constant, it’s like having a family.”
Piper, 63, spent her childbearing years “raising” L’Etoile. When she was chef de cuisine there, Lax felt similarly maternal.
“You get there at 9:30 in the morning, like your child is waking up, and you’re there until you tuck it into bed at night,” Lax said. “There’s no break. There’s no calling in sick.”
But the pressures of owning and running a restaurant can take a major toll. Biggie Lemke owns the Naked Elm in Blue Mounds with her former partner, Matt Heindl. The two have a daughter, 3-year-old Evelyn, and live in an apartment above the bakery/café.
“If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t do it,” Lemke, 32, said. “It’s been really hard. I would’ve waited until Evelyn was in school full time.”
To turn out pizza, bagels and pastry to meet demand, Lemke has been working a high-intensity schedule. It doesn’t always seem worth it.
“As a full-time working mother, there are times when all I want to do is spend time with my baby,” Lemke said. “You want to be there when they’re throwing up, but you can’t call in sick.
“It’s really hard for a man to see what it’s like,” she added. “It’s just different.”
Evelyn’s 3rd birthday fell on a recent Saturday and Lemke had to work all day.
“At some point in the middle of the day, I was like, this is (expletive) stupid,” she said. “It’s my daughter’s 3rd birthday, I’m baking for the rest of the world and I don’t have time to bake her cupcakes.”
Lemke was quick to add that she loves the work, and she’ll likely continue to bake for the rest of her life. But for now, the Naked Elm is caught in a lease dispute with her ex-boyfriend’s parents and Lemke is convinced the environment is bad for her daughter.
“I had people tell me this is going to be the hardest thing you ever do in your life,” Lemke said. “And I thought, ‘OK, that’s fine.’ Literally I was starry eyed — those things aren’t going to happen to me.
“And then they did.”
The next big names
Like many formerly male-dominated careers, the culinary field seems to be moving, slowly, toward greater parity between men and women holding primary responsibility in the kitchen.
At 43 North, Hong still has ideals about balancing work and family. Her fiancé, Matt Morris, is a chef at Restaurant Muramoto, and so well understands the demands of their career.
“I would love to see more women in the kitchen, without having to feel like you have to be super badass or have a thick skin to keep up with the machismo that goes on kitchens sometimes,” she said.
“I don’t think a lot of Madison kitchens are like that. I don’t know if some people are apprehensive to start because they fear what they might’ve seen on TV.”
That’s not the case for 19-year-old Marissa Bertram. About to graduate with a culinary degree from Madison College, Bertram recently won the Central Region Student Chef of the Year Award at an American Culinary Foundation competition.
“I would like to own my own restaurant, or maybe a few restaurants, someday,” said Bertram, who will follow up her degree with a year in restaurant management. She wants to travel to Europe and stage (intern) in high-end kitchens. Thomas Keller, chef/owner of The French Laundry in Napa Valley, is an inspiration.
“It would be hard to have a lot of kids and travel places. But I guess I just — I try not to let things like that stop me,” she said. “I guess I’ll figure that out when I get there.”
April 26, 2012
From onmilwaukee.com: “Local caramel company signs deal with Williams-Sonoma” – Beginning this fall, high-end gourmet giant Williams-Sonoma will feature a local company’s wares in its catalog and online offerings.
Salted gingerbread and cinnamon apple crisp are just two of the caramel flavors that will be included in a series of seasonal collections and variety boxes, all bearing the name of Pewaukee’s Becky’s Blissful Bakery.
The journey began when Rebecca Scarberry, owner of Becky’s and recipient of the Business Journal’s 2012 Forty Under 40 Award, Googled Williams-Sonoma and found the name of the buyer she needed to contact. Once she obtained that information, she sent him a spec sheet, along with samples of all of her caramels. The rest, as they say, is history.
“It was almost 7 o’clock at night when I got the phone call from their buyer,” Scarberry recalls. “He opened the conversation by telling me that they were the best caramels he’d ever tried in his life. He also told me they were the cleanest product he’d ever seen – no extracts, no emulsifiers and no preservatives. And then he asked me how I knew Todd.”
As it turns out, the buyer from Williams-Sonoma was a college roommate of Todd Wickstrom, co-owner of Rishi Tea and one of Becky’s Blissful Bakery’s local vendors.
Partnering with local companies has always been a large part of Scarberry’s business model. With an emphasis on high-quality, organic products, her caramels incorporate offerings from Lakefront Brewery, Rishi Tea and Stone Creek Coffee, in addition to Clover Meadow Winery, the only certified organic winery in the state of Wisconsin.
“When I first started my business I always said, ‘If I get into Sendik’s Fine Foods, then I’ve made it.’ Then it was, ‘If I can make it into Whole Foods, I’ve made it.’ And after that, ‘If I can just make it into Williams-Sonoma …’ so I don’t know where else I’m going at this point, but I really like it.”
But, lest you get the idea that Scarberry’s business has always traveled a fairytale path, it’s useful to take a look back at her humble beginnings.
Rebecca Scarberry was seven months pregnant when she moved to Wisconsin with her now-ex-husband, after spending 10 years living in Arizona. During her first winter in the state, she spent the bulk of her time baking.
“I grew up in the kitchen with my grandma. I felt comfort in the making and baking. I don’t cook much, but I love to make anything with sugar. Cookies, cakes, bars, candy, you name it. When I was pregnant with my son I shifted over to making everything with organic products.”
In 2007, the manager at Good Harvest Market in Pewaukee offered to sell her organic caramels in the store. Subsequently, she met a woman at church who had just purchased a candy shop in Waukesha, and they allowed her to rent their kitchen by the hour.
Her hobby business continued through December of 2008, when Scarberry hit bottom. In the same week that her divorce was finalized, she lost her job as an executive assistant for an Elm Grove architecture firm. Her world was turned on end.
But, rather than sitting home over the holidays feeling sorry for herself, she turned to her kitchen stove and cooked up a caramel business.
As a first step, she rented a kiosk at Southridge Mall and sold caramels during the weekend before Christmas. The next season, she started selling at the Fox Point farmer’s market. That’s where she met Deb Deacon, and subsequently journalist Karen Herzog. Herzog was impressed with Becky’s story, and ran a piece featuring her business over Thanksgiving weekend.
The publicity threw Scarberry’s business into full swing. But then, as luck would have it, she was offered a full-time job. As a single mom, it seemed like a no-brainer to simply take the job, so she did.
But, after three months of work, Scarberry realized that she would regret it for the rest of her life if she didn’t move forward with her caramel business.
Scarberry attended a quick-start business workshop at the Waukesha County Technical College Small Business Center. She employed a WCTC student, Brianna Dederich, to design her brochures and labels. And then she began ramping up production.
When circumstances required that she move out of her current commercial kitchen, Scarberry realized that she had to make some serious decisions about her business. She had just used up all of her capital purchasing a $9,000 cooker, and didn’t know how or where she could afford to move. Fortunately, she met Pewaukee resident-turned-developer Bob Zimmerman, who had just put his money into rehabilitating the village well house at 214 Oakton Ave. in Pewaukee.
With a new roof and other repairs, Zimmerman gave the 1929 “Water Works” building a new life. He also threw Scarberry a life-line when he helped her acquire the building to house her business.
Although she had a new space, Scarberry still needed to ensure that her new digs were up to code for food production. Since banks still weren’t handing out loans, let alone to a recent divorcee with a small business, she sold her minivan to pay for the $15,000 build-out for her new kitchen space.
After moving into the well house, Scarberry hit another bump in the road. Her caramels began crystallizing, creating production issues. Some were too soft. Some were too hard. She didn’t know what to do. So, she hired a consultant from the American Association of Candy Technologists, who assisted her in making changes to her recipe and cooking processes to solve the crystallization issues and give her product a nine-month shelf life to boot.
“Hiring the consultant saved me,” Scarberry reflects. “It cost me a lot of money, but it saved me. I wouldn’t be in business had I not taken that step.”
Becky’s Blissful Bakery currently offers 10 flavors of caramels, including original caramels, original with sea salt, dark chocolate with sea salt, cashew, espresso dark chocolate, chai tea, salted beer and pretzel, margarita and sangria. They also produce jarred caramel sauce, and are working on a champagne caramel to push out into the market later this year. Scarberry also hopes to create a new layered marshmallow caramel using organic marshmallows.
With current production exceeding 1,750 four-ounce boxes of caramels per week, Scarberry now employs three full-time staff as well as several part-timers who help out with events. In addition to wholesale and limited retail distribution, she also continues to sell her product at three area farmer’s markets.
“People ask why I still sell product at the farmer’s market,” remarks Scarberry. “I get real-time, true feedback, and I get to stay connected to the community, which is huge. For a small business, once you pull that plug, it changes everything.”
With regard to her recent success, Scarberry attributes it to the support she’s gotten from her partners and individuals in the community, in addition to good old fashioned hard work and good timing.
“Everything happens for a reason,” she says. “The fact that I made it through 2011 is just amazing. Had I reached out to Williams-Sonoma before now, it would definitely have been a ‘no.’ Everything literally happened as it should.”
April 11, 2012
From postcrescent.com: “FVTC set to begin building $2 culinary arts theater” – GRAND CHUTE — Students at Fox Valley Technical College will have a stove-side view of live cooking demonstrations when construction of a $2 million culinary arts theater is completed by year’s end.
Dubbed the Jones Dairy Farm Culinary Arts Theatre, the 126-seat facility will have a state-of-the-art kitchen equipped with digital cameras and large screens to provide close-ups and technology to record and broadcast presentations.
A groundbreaking ceremony will be held today for the theater, which will be located near the main entrance. The project is separate from a $66.5 million spending referendum for FVTC that voters in nine counties approved April 3.
Jeff Igel, department chairman and instructor in the Culinary Arts and Hospitality program at the school, said students are the beneficiaries.
“We are giving them a fantastic learning environment that they currently don’t have,” he said. “And we are already in the planning of nonvocational programming for the masses. The last thing I want to do is dust this thing; I want to use it.”
A better setting for cooking demonstrations to teach larger audiences was among the suggestions offered by the American Culinary Federation during its re-accreditation visit to FVTC in 2008.
“The idea was on our back burner, but we knew it would be a pricey gig,” Igel said.
In 2010, Igel approached the Fort Atkinson-based Jones Dairy Farm for financial support for the project. In March 2011, Jones Dairy CEO and President Philip Jones agreed to pay for half of the project’s cost — with a lead gift of $125,000 — if the college could raise the rest of the money.
In one month, industry partners, program graduates and suppliers hit the $300,000 mark, which included the money from Jones Dairy.
“We screamed past our goal and were still going,” Igel said of the eventual $500,000 raised.
Added FVTC President Susan May: “Industry support for this project through cash and equipment donations has been incredible, and the college is committed to serving as a key partner to ensure a talented workforce for the culinary and hospitality sector of our regional economy. The new Jones Dairy Farm Culinary Theatre will not only address a key facility need of our remarkable Culinary Arts program, but also provide a tremendous venue for industry and community demonstrations and culinary experiences.”
The Jones Dairy Farm Culinary Arts Theatre should be completed by the end of December, Igel said.
From host.madison.com: “MATC plans $8 million culinary institute at Downtown campus” – Madison Area Technical College officials want to move the school’s culinary and baking institute to a highly visible location Downtown in an effort to give the program one of the best tables in the house.
College officials are expected to ask the district board for approval Wednesday to build a three-story facility at the Downtown campus for culinary, baking and hospitality programs at a cost of $8 million, using money approved in a 2010 building referendum.
The building will contain a retail bakery, a dining room and a demonstration kitchen, all of which will be prominently displayed in a glass building on the corner of West Johnson Street and Wisconsin Avenue. The programs are currently located at the East Side Truax campus.
It will mean students and faculty will be in the epicenter of the city’s restaurants and hotels, as well as Madison’s premier farmers’ market, said Paul Short, program director for the culinary arts program.
“The opportunity for us is tremendous,” he said.
The facility was not specifically identified in the referendum question posed to voters, but Roger Price, senior vice president for administration, said the question was flexible enough to allow for the construction. The referendum calls for up to $133.8 million in spending on projects included in the Campus Master Plan. He said the culinary school project is possible because construction costs for other projects, such as a new health building, are lower than expected.
Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said the building likely meets the letter of the law, but college officials may want to consider whether it’s wise from a public relations perspective because the project wasn’t cited when the college pitched the referendum to voters.
“The bigger question for any district that is trying to proceed with a positive referendum result is to ask, not whether they can do it legally, but rather whether it furthers the trust relationship between the district and the community,” Berry said.
In addition to approval from the MATC District Board, the plans will also need to be approved by the Wisconsin Technical College System board.
The culinary program was located Downtown before the Truax campus was built in the 1980s.
The new facility will be approximately 30,000 square feet and will not be attached to the existing building at the Downtown campus, 211 N. Carroll St. It will take the place of about 37 of 77 parking spots and some green space on the northern corner of the lot.
The culinary, baking and hospitality programs have about 200 students and have a perennial waiting list. It’s the only culinary program in Madison and growing, Short said. The new facility will mean the program may be able to take more students and operate in a less cramped space, he said.
Students currently serve a four-course lunch three times a week at Truax for the public, and Short anticipates the Downtown location may have expanded hours. Eugene Devitt, chairman of the Mansion Hill Neighborhood Association, said he recalls that the MATC dining room was popular in the 1970s when it was located Downtown.
“I think this is going to be great for Downtown and also the community,” he said. “You’ll be able to see people cook when you’re walking by on the sidewalk. It’s a very unique plan.”
April 5, 2012
From ozaukeepress.com: “Easter Eggs (not to dye for)” – When she was a young girl, Ann Green of Port Washington and each of her siblings received an elaborately decorated sugar Easter egg with their names on them. They looked through the peepholes to see the diorama inside. Hers had bunnies and flowers.
After Easter, her mother gathered the eggs and carefully packed them away for the next Easter.
“I later found out most children ate their eggs and got a new one each year,” Green said. “I guess my mother didn’t want six kids eating all that sugar.”
Green cherished her egg for 35 years until it was broken during a move.
The Easter tradition faded, probably replaced with plastic eggs filled with candy or prizes, but Green resurrected it in her family.
Six years ago, she purchased a two-piece egg mold with directions for sugar eggs. Now she gives them away to family and friends.
“They’re really easy to make,” Green said. “It’s just sugar and water. You can buy flowers, jelly beans and Peeps to put inside if you want. I just prefer to make my own.”
For Green, a professional baker who enjoys creating unusual cakes, decorating is second nature.
She uses royal icing, which is made of meringue powder, confectioners sugar and water, that dries hard to decorate the outside and inside of the egg. She makes flowers, leaves, butterflies and bunnies with the icing, then adheres them to the egg with the frosting.
“It is time consuming, and it takes a couple of times to get the right consistency and pack that egg tight,” Green said as she demonstrated how to make the eggs.
Enough water is added to sugar until it is the consistency of sand.
Green firmly packed the egg mold with sugar to the top, then turned it upside on waxed paper to dry for one to two hours. She scooped out the inside, leaving a quarter-inch-thick shell. She cut out a half-circle in the end of each egg half to form a peephole when the pieces are put together.
She turned the egg pieces upside down and let them dry for a day before decorating and assembling.
That’s the fun part. Green puts a scene in the bottom half — she’s partial to butterflies and flowers. She tried green-tinted coconut for grass, but didn’t like that as well as green frosting and small flowers. She sometimes adds jelly beans, M&Ms or other candy.
Her eggs are completely edible, so she doesn’t use plastic bunnies or flowers.
Children could decorate eggs with animal crackers or Gummy Bears, she noted.
When the bottom half is finished, she puts the top on with a bead of icing, then pipes a decorative design around the edge and peephole.
Eggs without peepholes can be used to hold candy or gifts.
Green became a baker several years ago, but it’s something she’s wanted to do since high school. Her mother discouraged her daughter, noting it was a man’s domain at that time and the hours were terrible. Bakers work through the night to have fresh bakery ready when their shops opened.
Her mother wanted her to have a normal work schedule and social life, Green said.
She got a degree in therapeutic recreation, but Green said she always preferred baking.
After getting married and having children, she was a stay-at-home mom who worked in bakeries and recreation programs.
While living in Iowa, she baked cakes for customers from her home kitchen, something that’s not allowed in Wisconsin. She now has access to a commercial kitchen.
Green took a Wilton cake-decorating class in Iowa. When she moved to Port Washington, she took a professional baking course at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) in Milwaukee.
She graduated with honors from the one-year program, which included making breads, pies, cakes and cake decorating. She then took an advanced pastries course, learning to work with spun sugar and chocolate.
“I had taught myself a lot of it over the years, but it was nice to go back to school and get the fine tuning,” Green said.
Far as their final class project, the 30 students created gingerbread houses for a competition. Green’s elaborate Victorian house, which had glazed-sugar windows, took second place.
She is now a member of the MATC advisory board for bakery and pastry arts.
Although she can bake almost anything, Green said, desserts, especially cakes, are her forte.
“You have to specialize in something. It’s difficult to do it all and do it well. I like desserts,” she said.
Everything on her cakes is edible. She often mixes rice cereal with marshmallow creme until its malleable enough to form items atop cakes, such as a dinosaur for a child’s cake or cowboy boots for the cast of Port Summer Theater’s production of “Oklahoma!”
For a photographer’s birthday, she made a cake shaped like a camera, complete with an edible strap.
She often makes cake baskets for Easter, filling them with flowers or colorful eggs.
For Christmas, Green made a gingerbread train that she donated to the Niederkorn Library in Port.
Green, who recently baked for the Java Dock in Port Washington, goes to state and national bakers’ conventions where she picks up new ideas and techniques.
Over the years, she has developed her own cake recipes, which are secrets she won’t share even with her family.
“I’m lucky to be able to go to work and do what I enjoy every day and be creative,” Green said.
March 30, 2012
From onmilwaukee.com: “Kickstart your culinary dream: The hottest kitchen entrepreneur challenge” – Have you ever dreamed of owning your own food-related business?
If so, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services, a local provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners, would like to give you a head start on your planning. On April 2, they will launch the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, a regional contest to find the next great food entrepreneur.
Armen Hadjinian, program coordinator for MATC’s new Entrepreneurship Center, says he has seen an increase in the number of individuals who want to break free from the corporate grind and start their own businesses. He attributes what he sees to a number of factors including underemployment, resume building, a shift in attitudes toward self-reliance and independence, and entrepreneurship, innovative thinking and creativity, which lends itself to the competitive corporate climate.
He also sees passion as a key motivator for entrepreneurs, sometimes even more so than the lure of a large income.
“Money may have limited appeal,” he suggests, “Yet entrepreneurship can bring power and control over one’s career and family. It’s sensible to start small, to test, learn and attempt.”
And that’s what a variety of local food entrepreneurs are doing.
Back in 2008, after being downsized from a corporate job, Byron Jackson turned a 30-year love affair with fiery foods into a full-time gourmet hot sauce business. Man’s Best Friend Sauces markets products to a niche market of chile lovers who crave imaginative “purebred” hot sauces, each of which is identified with its own unique dog breed.
According to Jackson, MBF’s growth is as much linked to the dogs on the bottles as the products’ inventive flavor profiles. But, Jackson’s success didn’t come without growing pains.
“Prior to 2008, MBF Sauces was more of a glorified hobby. At that time, expenses didn’t matter to me because I always had a good job to subsidize them. These days I remain a passionate hot sauce artisan, but I’m also very prudent and much more aware of my actual expenses.”
Jackson also has advice for anyone thinking about starting his or her own business.
“Before you get started, ask the question ‘Why do I need to share this with the world?’” Jackson says. “If it takes more than few seconds to answer, you may want to reconsider your idea as a hobby instead of a full-time business.”
Amber Atlee, along with two colleagues from Waukesha County Technical College, answered that question after finding that there was a demand for a service that provided fresh, upscale options for independent seniors and others who wanted heat-and-eat meals delivered to their homes once weekly.
In July of 2011, they started a personal chef and catering company called Culinary Twists, and began offering an ever-changing menu of main dishes and sides made with fresh ingredients.
Like many small businesses, the partners from Culinary Twists needed to meet a number of logistical challenges before launching their business.
First, they needed to conduct research to determine whether there was a need for their particular niche business and to determine how they would compete with current competitors in the market. Next, they needed to find a commercial kitchen that would allow them to rent space for a limited amount of time each week. Finally, they needed to ensure that they had the appropriate licenses from the state, as well as each county in which they wanted to conduct their business.
“Just because you have a good idea and really like to cook doesn’t mean that you will make a great business owner,” Atlee says. “We’re fortunate to have three partners who each bring something different to the table – one of us is great at sales, one is great at the finances, the other keeps our kitchen running smoothly.”
Do you think you have what it takes? Beginning April 2, aspiring chefs and home cooks throughout Wisconsin are invited to enter The Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge at hotwater247.com by submitting a short application and a photo of their recipe or product concept.
All entries must be submitted by midnight on Friday, May 18. Full contest rules and details are available right on the website.
“We know there are passionate cooks who have the beginnings of a food business idea and others who may have taken the first steps but could use some encouragement and advice,” says Hadjinian.
The grand prize winner will receive $2,500 in seed money from Reliable to start their business, a comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC and a gift certificate for professional cookware from The Boelter Companies.
Finalists will be selected in mid-June to participate in a final judging event at Cuisine, the student-operated restaurant for MATC’s culinary arts program in late summer.
Judges for the contest will include:
- Justin Aprahamian, chef de cuisine for Sanford Restaurant and James Beard semi-finalist
- Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley Deli, Market & Full Service Café
- Andrea Marquez-Paquin and Andrew Paquin, owners of La Luna, a local company which provides fresh, authentic Mexican food products sold in select grocers’ freezers
- George Flees, general manager of Parkside 23, a restaurant in Brookfield featuring American food made with fresh, local ingredients
“We are so excited to help a local entrepreneur who has an innovative food business idea but needs resources to get started,” said Lynne Robinson, president of Reliable Water Services. “It’s very gratifying to know we can help kick-start someone’s culinary dream.”
From fdlreporter.com: “FdL business is part of emerging indoor gardening market” – No matter what the season, Heather Ulrichsen has fresh herbs, lettuce and peppers.
What started as a winter hobby turned into a business opportunity. She and her partner, Richard Manser, own Rational Solutions for Farming, 416 N. Main St., Suite 1. Their store and website, rationalfarming.com, sell everything needed to start and maintain indoor and hydroponics gardens.
Ulrichsen said gardening setups can be as large or small as the gardener wants. This time of year, indoor gardening helps start seeds for spring planting. Indoor gardens work well year-round, too, she said.
Hydroponic gardening isn’t new, but it’s an emerging market. Indoor gardening appeals to growers who want fresh produce, flowers or plants year-round. In light of product recalls and safety concerns, more Americans are growing their own food, she said.
It also holds potential for residents with limited outdoor growing space, particularly those in apartments or urban homeowners with small yards, she said.
Ulrichsen said she started using hydroponics in 2009 when she and Manser had an organic farm near Hillsboro, Wis. She wanted something to do during the winter, so she started growing plants indoors and used them for freezing, canning and eating fresh. Some of those jars now sit on display at the store.
Since it went so well and because the small farm was struggling to compete with larger operations in the organic market, she looked at hydroponics as a business.
They eventually quit the farm and moved to Fond du Lac, where Ulrichsen had lived as a child when her mother served as a Methodist minister in North Fond du Lac. Ulrichsen said they chose Fond du Lac not only because she has ties to the area, but also because it’s everything she wants as a resident and entrepreneur — it has a more rural setting, but it’s only an hour’s drive from larger cities.
Rational Solutions for Farming opened Oct. 15, 2010, and has served a diverse customer base, from individuals to organizations, including Moraine Park Technical College’s culinary arts program, she said.
How it works
At first blush, Ulrichsen’s hydroponic gardening looks and sounds like something out of “Star Trek.” There are multi-colored lights, canvases and tents, tubes and fans, thermometers and numerous containers with plants in various stages of growth. In one corner, tiny strawberry plants peek through the soil. In the other, a sprawling cucumber seems to be plotting to takeover its neighborhood. Pepper plants reach for the light as small fruits hide beneath lush leaves.
On more than one occasion, she’s stopped to pluck a lettuce leaf for her sandwich or some herbs for cooking, she said.
“It really does wonders psychologically. It’s your own little oasis. You can shut out all the winter stuff going on outside,” she said.
The miniature jungles and technology may intimidate customers looking for a small setup, but Ulrichsen says indoor gardening doesn’t have to be large or complicated.
It requires lighting and some kind of shelter, whether it’s a tent or canvas. She said the lights mimic the sun’s rays, and the canvas is essential to direct the light to the plants.
“If you were to just stick a light in a room, you’re not going to get good results. You’re just lighting your room. It’s a glorified light bulb at that point,” she said.
In another kind of hydroponics system, plants sit in a circular container. The roots hold clay pebbles, which are cleaner than soil. Ulrichsen said she waters the pebbles, and the plants pull moisture and nutrients from the clay.
Indoor gardening doesn’t require special seeds or plants, she added.
“You’re kind of playing God a little bit,” she said. “You control the light, the temperature, how much water they get.”
Pests are a possibility, but they can be controlled with all-natural pesticides. Ulrichsen said she uses a chrysanthemum extract that’s safe for plants and people.
Grow your own
MPTC’s culinary arts program started indoor gardening last fall, said Culinary Arts Instructor Ron Speich. He said Rational Solutions for Farming donated two LED lights and provided information to help them get started.
MPTC now has not only an indoor garden but also an aquaponic system that combines a fish tank with growing plants. The fish’s droppings create a fertilized water for the plants. Ulrichsen said she hopes to sell aquaponics systems in the future.
Speich said students and staff wanted to use more homegrown ingredients instead of buying them. Since graduates will likely become chefs, they need to understand where their food comes from, how safe it is and how to find the freshest ingredients.
The plants are flourishing, he said. The basil is three feet high. When the pepper plants hit five feet, it was time for trimming.
“I think in the future you’re going to see more and more of it,” he said.
February 20, 2012
From fox11online.com: “Students in FDL go back to basics” — FOND DU LAC – Students apart of the Culinary Arts Department at Moraine Park Technical College are going back to basics. FOX 11′s Emily Deem stopped by the college in Fond du Lac to see what students are learning.
The school’s Culinary Arts Department is doing some pretty awesome things with hydroponics, aquaponics and gardening.
According to the college one of the instructors has turned what used to be the old meat-cutting area into a place where students can grow through sustainable learning.
The idea is for students to go back to basics. Students are being taught where their food is coming from and how to use sustainable practices in their future careers.
Students are tending to several grow boxes with a variety of lettuces, sprouts, vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers.
Thirty gold fish are keeping the aquaponics system moving, with hopes to start growing tilapia. Students started a garden this past summer, growing herbs, vegetables and edible flowers.
Students harvest most of the fresh produce to use in dishes served at the College’s Park Terrace Restaurant.