From “Western grad following farm-to-table dreams” — Josh Powell has a vision. One day, he wants to be in the kitchen of his own restaurant. A customer might compliment his pork chops and ask where they came from, “and I can just point west,” Powell said.

And then, he’ll say something like: “See that pasture with those six hogs?”

After more than a decade in the culinary arts, the 32-year-old La Crosse native went back to school to learn more about the meat and vegetables that end up in his kitchen. Powell begins an internship at Organic Valley on Monday after graduating from Western Technical College’s agri-business science technology program.

“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” Powell said. “There were a couple times where I really thought about, ‘Is this the right idea?’ ”

Powell is one of 1,136 graduates who will be honored at 2 p.m. today at Western’s spring commencement ceremony in the La Crosse Center. College officials will grant 527 associate degrees and 242 technical diplomas, with 321 students graduating from Western’s certified nursing assistant program.

Powell’s Western degree marks his second spin at college. He also studied the culinary arts at Fox Valley Technical College, but he realized about two years ago that he needed to return to the world of higher education to realize his dream.

Powell wants to own a farm-to-table restaurant — a place that mixes modern cooking with “old-school” butchering, Powell said.

“I think butchering is kind of a dying art,” Powell said. “People don’t eat heart. People don’t eat liver. People don’t eat kidneys.”

Powell was the type of student who always added to the conversation in his classes at Western — often to talk about his favorite food, said Tracy Harper, an instructor and department head.

“Lots of discussions about bacon,” Harper said. “Every class.”

Powell’s passion for food was obvious, and it was infectious, Harper said.

His love for food dates back to the baked goods served up by his grandma and aunt. He wouldn’t settle for anything that wasn’t as tasty as his grandma’s cuisine, Powell said.

He started brushing up on his skills with different ingredients. About 12 years ago, he got a job at Syl’s Place, a Barre Mills supper club. Powell worked in the kitchen and behind the bar.

“Pouring drinks wasn’t really my thing,” Powell said. “I like playing with fire.”

He also has worked in kitchens at the La Crosse Country Club and restaurants in the Green Bay area.

“I was pretty lucky in my 12 years in the kitchen,” Powell said.

He was the executive chef at Pogreba in La Crosse but relinquished that title when he went back to school.

An unfortunate incident with a mechanical bull forced Powell to focus on his transition from cooking to agriculture. Nursing an injured elbow — compliments of the bull — Powell took two months off to focus on his studies.

Now, he’s back where he started, at Syl’s, but the horizon is completely changed. Western instructors and the people he met there have given him the ability to pursue his goals. They taught him things he could never have learned in the small garden of his childhood home on the North Side, Powell said.

He and some of his friends are raising livestock and testing recipes on family and friends, but Powell is focused on Organic Valley, where he’ll work this summer as an intern in the quality assurance department.

“Between a couple of my buddies, we’ve got to find a plan,” Powell said. “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right.”

From “Fox Valley Celiacs bringing in gluten-free chef for demonstrations” — Rebecca Reilly used to skip school to stay home and cook.

“That was the time Julia Child and Graham Kerr were on television, and I was in a family where we did all the cooking,” the Massachusetts chef said. “My mother had three girls, and we were responsible for cooking because she was working, too.”

As an adult, the kitchen remained a safe haven for Reilly.

“The world was safe as long as I had my apron on,” she said.

Reilly is a classically French-trained chef with more than 20 years in signature cafés and high-end kitchens as head chef, sous chef, pastry chef and menu consultant. She also is nationally recognized as a gluten-free chef, instructor, author and food coach.

The latter is the result of learning in the mid-’90s that she, her daughter and her son all have celiac disease.

Fox Valley Celiacs support group has partnered with the Fox Valley Technical College culinary arts program to bring Reilly, author of the bestselling cookbook, “Gluten Free Baking,” to Appleton on April 5. Reilly will teach gluten-free breads and desserts from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and gluten-free homemade pasta and simple meals from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Each session is $10.

Culinary arts students from FVTC will offer a gluten-free lunch between sessions for $8. Vendor booths offering gluten-free products in their stores will provide information, coupons and samples.

“The board of the Fox Valley Celiac Support Group is thrilled to be hosting chef Rebecca here in Appleton,” board member Rebecca Mailand said. “By partnering with Fox Valley Technical College culinary arts program, we were able to make this a reality. Festival Foods has been a huge help as well by providing us with the ingredients chef Rebecca will use during her sessions. In addition, Festival Foods as well as Happy Bellies Bake Shop, the Free Market and Bulk Priced Foods will have vendor booths at the event.”

For Reilly, learning about celiac disease started with her son, now 22.

“My son was very sickly,” she said. “As a 5-year-old he couldn’t even walk across a basketball (court) without someone picking up and carrying him. And he couldn’t breathe. He was an emotional, physical mess.”

While allergy prick tests showed no sensitivity to gluten, blood work did.

Feeding her son gluten-free foods transformed not only his life, it also helped Reilly’s irritable bowel and made her daughter’s migraine headaches disappear.

“My son was a gift. I look at him as my gift to heal all three of us,” she said.

Reilly said she loves teaching people how to make flexible and delicious breads and pizza and more with alternative grains.

“People go, ‘Oh, my god. I can do this. I can have pumpernickel. I can have focaccia. I can have, I can have, I can have,’” she said. “When people take my class, it transforms their lives. … I am not about recipes. I’m about teaching you how to make it.”

From “Youth apprentices find positions with local companies” – Nick Steenwyk, of Sheboygan, is a computer aided design drafter in the bathing group for Kohler Company in Kohler. Like most CAD drafters, he performs tasks such as working with Creo software to create models and drawings of whirlpools.

Unlike most CAD drafters, Nick is currently a high school student at Sheboygan Christian High School. Through the youth apprenticeship program at Lakeshore Technical College, Steenwyk began working at Kohler Company.

“The best part of my YA experience has been working in a career field I’m interested in pursuing,” Steenwyck said in a news release. “Not only am I able to pick up skills and techniques that with be invaluable in years to come, my experience has been a tremendous help in determining a career field I want to enter.”

Steenwyk is not alone in Sheboygan County when it comes to Youth Apprenticeship. The Lakeshore Technical College Youth Apprenticeship program recently completed their annual Information Nights for high school students interested in the 2014-15 Youth Apprenticeship program. For the third consecutive year, the Sheboygan County Youth Apprenticeship program is seeing large increases in both student apprentices and employer participation.

Representatives from employers like Nemak, Rockline, Blue Harbor and Wigwam also are working with students.

Youth apprenticeship offers students the opportunity to explore future careers while they are still in high school and get paid for their time working at area employers. Youth apprenticeship offers one- and two-year programs in fields like health, hotel and hospitality, culinary, finance, mechanical design, welding and manufacturing.

The Sheboygan youth apprenticeship program has grown rapidly in the past few years, from 11 students in 2010-11 to 32 students in 2011-12. The program swelled to 68 students in the current school year. It’s expected that number will rise to 85 for next school year.

For more information on the LTC youth apprenticeship program, contact Jill Preissner at 920-693-1261 or

From “Pastry Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer: Through the eyes of an apprentice” — World renowned pastry chef Jacquey Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School and author of the new book “The Art of French Pastry,” has won countless accolades for his tireless pursuit of perfection in pastry.

He has also been recognized for his exceptional mentorship, which he has extended to dozens of pastry students from Wisconsin. Some, like Chef Kurt Fogle of SURG Restaurant Group, who Pfeiffer mentions by name as a star pupil, have gone on to make their own marks on the world of pastry.

On January 12, Fogle and a team of some of the city’s finest culinary talent – including Chefs Justin Carlisle of Ardent, Matt Haase of Rocket Baby Bakery, Andrew Miller of Hom Woodfired Grill and Jarvis Williams of Carnevor — will host a dinner honoring Pfeiffer. The five course dinner will serve as a celebration of his life, his work, and his new book.

The menu is being kept under wraps, but Fogle says each chef will be pulling out the stops in an effort to pay homage to Pfeiffer.

“We all work together, and we’re all a little competitive,” Fogle remarks, “So, you know everyone is bringing their A-game. There’s something–without trying to sound like too much of a weirdo — about watching five guys really going for it. To be a person in the room experiencing those dishes.”

Fogle has a particular investment in the dinner, since Pfeiffer was a key influencer in setting the direction of his career.

During his tenure with Pfeiffer, Fogle was one of very few Americans who had the privilege of taking part in the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition (Best Craftsmen in France), a competition captured in the documentary, “Kings of Pastry.”

NPR’s Ella Taylor remarked, “Kings of Pastry is about the craft, the teaching and learning, the collaborative work, the tedium, the heartbreak and emotional backbone it takes to make something lovely, even if that something is destined to disappear down a gullet in seconds — and even if the maker ends up a noble failure.”

“The whole damn experience was indelible,” Fogle says. “Working with Pfeiffer was two years of just having my mind blown day after day. And it was exhausting. Nothing will ever be harder than that. Nothing. I’m going to continue to challenge and push myself, but that’s the highest level.”

Working together created a professional and personal bond between the two chefs. Fogle says Pfieffer continued to be his mentor even after he left Chicago. In fact, it was Pfieffer who encouraged Fogle to move back to his home state of Wisconsin after completion of the competition.

“Since I was 15 working at O&H Danish Bakery in Racine, I had a passion for this part of the culinary world, and Pfeiffer encouraged me to come back and see where I could enhance pastry here,” he says.

He credits Pfeiffer with launching his career, as well as setting the direction for his art.

“To sum it up,” Fogle tells me, “He’s one of the best pastry chefs on the planet, and in turn I’m one of the luckiest apprentices to walk the planet.”

He went on to talk about some of the things he took away from his experience.

“I don’t want to say I didn’t learn to cook from him,” Fogle explains. “But what I really learned is how to think, how to be organized. He didn’t teach me how to bake, he taught me how to think.”

And for Fogle, part of that experience was learning that he could do anything to which he set his mind.

“One of the first things you learn from him is that anything is possible, because if it’s impossible we’re just going to create a technique or a tool or a trick to make it happen,” he tells me. “It wasn’t how to hold a spatula and fold mousse. It was the commitment and philosophical aspect I gained – learning to be tenacious and resourceful so that when I get out into the real world… when I don’t have a proofer or a sheeter– and I have an oven with hotspots hotter than Mercury — that I could still put out a great croissant.”

Fogle, who has known Pfeiffer since 2006, says he’s more than just a great teacher and pastry chef.

“He’s really really good at foozeball and ping-pong,” Fogle goes on. “Like he makes me feel bad about even playing against him.”

But, Fogle says his gentle disposition is what really makes Pfeiffer exceptional.

“In all the time I’ve known him, he’s never raised his voice,” he explains. “He’s the sort of guy who just makes you want to do things better – whether it’s pastry or what it is… he just never loses any steam. He’s ok going back and back and back and making things better and better. That’s really what rubbed off the most.”

Fogle, who teaches part-time at MATC in their culinary department, says he learned a great deal about teaching from Pfeiffer.

“I think the most important thing that I learned from him is that you have to be patient, and you have to let people struggle through it… a good example is that he was trying to teach me how to pipe something. I was struggling with holding the bag and not moving it. A couple of years later I realized I was doing it properly. But, I don’t know when it happened. He instilled in the idea that you just need to do it and do it again.”

So, when he teaches, Fogle says he always keeps that in mind.

“The fact is, I can’t talk you into being a good pastry chef, and I can’t make you into a great chef. But, I can be there for you and work with you and help you get there.”

Sounds like the sort of teacher we’d all love to have had.

From “Shorewood chef wins MATC kitchen entrepreneur challenge” — Marcus Thie from Shorewood has been named winner of the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge for his concept Sauceformations, a line of organic sauces.

The finalists were judged at a tasting event which took place last week at Cuisine, the student-run restaurant at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Thie won top honors for his line of gluten-free and Paleo-diet friendly organic sauces for home chefs including Tomato Choka, a recipe from Trinidad.

Thie wants to to launch StreetBeet, a food truck where he can promote locally grown food and showcase organic recipes featuring his sauce line.

The grand prize was $2,500 in seed money from Reliable Water Services of Milwaukee to help start Thie’s business, a comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC and over $500 worth of professional cookware and professional knives from Boelter Superstore and a two-hour private meeting with food industry executives serving on FaB Milwaukee’s Advisory Council.

Other finalists included Pete Cooney of Pete’s Pops – Handcrafted Ice Pops and Andrew Bechaud of Bechaud Elixing Company, both based in Milwaukee.

The Challenge was sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services.


From “Sisters focus on quality butchery, wines” — You don’t think of a butcher shop as a place to sit down for a glass of wine and a sandwich, but then, there aren’t too many places like Bavette La Boucherie.

This shop, which seems on track to become a foodie destination, opened in May in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.

It’s primarily a neighborhood butcher shop, where you can buy locally and sustainably produced beef, pork and lamb, as well as a selection of sausages.

But it’s also a café with several tables and eight counter seats that look over the area where the meat is cut.

On the wall to the right as you walk in, there’s a small collection of gourmet food items — honey from Spain, for example — and about a dozen astutely chosen wines for sale.

No matter what brings you to this shop at 330 E. Menomonee St., you’ll find you’re in expert hands.

The owner is chef Karen Bell, who has a culinary degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Over the years she’s cooked up a resumé that reaches from Vong and Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago to Madrid, where she operated her own restaurant. Most recently she was at Café at the Plaza in Milwaukee.

She also has the good fortune of having a wine expert in the family.

So when the time came to select the libations for her new venture, she turned to her sister Jessica Bell, a wine consultant and founder of My Wine School.

“Jessica has a much more sophisticated palate for wine than I do,” said Karen, who at 36 is a year-and-a-half older than her sister.

“And Karen has a much more sophisticated palate for food than I do,” said the younger sister. “Bavette is Karen’s — I simply helped with the wines. We sat down and tasted them all together. I want her vision to shine through.”

The sisters grew up in Whitefish Bay, as part of a food-loving family with four girls. Today, Jessica and Karen live next door to each other on Milwaukee’s east side.

Karen says the inspiration for Bavette came from two Chicago locales — Publican Quality Meats, which combines butcher shop, market and café, and the Butcher & Larder, a whole-animal butcher shop.

She volunteered at both places to begin learning the business of butchering.

Bavette, with its “main focus on the butcher shop,” is a departure from what she had been doing as a chef.

“But I thought — why can’t I do this? I already know a lot of the cuts of meat,” she said.

How did she come up with the name Bavette, which means flank steak in French?

As Karen tells it: “I did not specifically seek out a French word, but when I was trying to think of names and thought of this one, I did like the fact that it is French, easy to pronounce and has a butchering or meat meaning. I was also drawn to it because it is feminine sounding and being a woman butcher, I liked that.”

She says she’s always been “enamored” of French butcher shops, although she’s not trying to emulate one.

As she has become more interested in the politics of food, the idea of a butcher shop that sells meat from responsibly raised animals appealed to her.

And because Bavette is also a café, she can continue her cooking.

Asked if female butchers are a rarity, she said, “I think so — it’s traditionally a male occupation maybe because it’s physical work.”

She sees butchering as “a dying craft, with very few people getting in the whole animals directly from the farm.”

But that’s what they do at Bavette. The carcasses come in weekly, and then are cut up, often by Bill Kreitmeir, a veteran butcher whom Karen hired — and from whom she is learning.

On a recent Friday he was cutting up a Red Wattle hog that had just arrived. It’s a breed included in Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, which catalogs distinctive foods in order to preserve biodiversity and culinary heritage.

The shop’s meat is all from grass-fed animals and sourced locally, mostly from farms in the Madison area.

“We love knowing where our food comes from,” Karen said.

And, yes, you might want to beef about the relatively high cost of the meat here.

Spareribs, for instance, will run you about $6 a pound; at a regular butcher shop, they would cost less than $5 a pound.

But Karen believes the uptick in cost is worth it because the meat “tastes better and is responsibly raised.”

“People are willing to spend a little more money for quality.”

She points to the popularity of Whole Foods as an indication that this is true.

When asked to select wines for her sister’s store, Jessica knew she had to be “very choosy” because they wanted to start with only about a dozen wines in the retail area, priced between $15 and $30.

In addition, there are five wines sold by the glass on the café’s beverage list — all $8 a glass — along with a dozen bottled beers.

“I teach classes on how to judge quality in wines,” she said. “So my goal here is to find the best quality at the best price point.”

The choices reflect the food-friendly wines she and her sister prefer.

Jessica describes the wines, which are from around the world, as having good acidity and an elegance that goes beyond simple fruit taste.

“I guess you can say these wines are more austere, made more in the Old World style,” she explained. “And there are plenty of New World producers making this style of wine, too.”

So, for example, she’s apt to recommend the more restrained wines from Oregon or Washington over California’s big-bodied, high-alcohol wines.

Bell sticks to simplicity with food pairings

For Milwaukee-based wine guru Jessica Bell, pairing wine and food is part of the fun. “It’s a puzzle I love to solve.”

Her basic strategy is to consider three things: sweetness, acid and body.

That’s sweetness, acid and body in both the wine and the food. And the idea is to match them up.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s not an exact science.

In her sister Karen Bell’s recipe for Red Pepper Miso and Sesame Glazed Spare Ribs, for instance, there’s “some sweetness in the glaze,” so that is echoed in the touch of sweetness in the New Zealand Riesling that Jessica chose.

The orange juice and zest in the recipe is a tip-off to look for a wine with good acidity — and that’s a characteristic that top-quality Riesling is known for, according to Jessica.

Pork is one of those meats that can go with either red or white wine. And in this instance, a white with some heft — more body than, say, a Pinot Grigio — matches well with the ribs.

Jessica emphasizes that the method of preparation in a recipe and the secondary ingredients are often more important than the main ingredient.

Looking at the “facts” of the food you’re considering “helps to reduce the chance of a disaster,” she said. “I could think of some really bad match-ups with those ribs. A big, heavy Barolo would be horrible — it’s too tannic for those ribs.”

Of course, there are some always-happy marriages when it comes to wine and meat.

Jessica loves simply prepared lamb with Rioja, a Spanish red made from Tempranillo grape. And with steak, Cabernet is a great pairing. For game, she’ll reach for a richly flavored Syrah-based wine.

“Why mess with something that works?” she said.

From “MATC finalists serve up heated competition” — Do you have to pick just one?

That was my thought when I looked over the contenders for grand prize in this year’s Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Three guys are finalists in the second annual competition, which is also sponsored by Reliable Water Services and FaB Milwaukee. And each product sounds like something I’d like to try.

There’s Andrew Bechaud of Milwaukee, whose Bechaud Elixing Co. is a line of handcrafted, small-batch beverages made with Wisconsin agricultural products. Consider flavors like Chocolate Chai Veloute, Spring Blossom Cherry Soda and Citrus Saffron Horchata. He’s targeting upscale grocers.

There’s Pete Cooney and his Pete’s Pops, a line of frozen treats made with fresh fruits and natural sugars in flavors that include watermelon mint, strawberry basil and pineapple jalapeño. His goal is to start with push carts and eventually get into area stores.

And finally there’s Michael Thie of Shorewood, with Sauceformations, a line of gluten-free and Paleo diet-friendly organic sauces. His StreetBeet food truck would serve up organic recipes featuring his sauces. One such sauce: tomato choka, a Trinidad specialty.

The judges will have a tough choice to make on July 31, when the finalists make their pitches in person in the student-run restaurant, Cuisine, at MATC’s downtown campus. The judging panel includes (among others) Jan Kelly, chef-owner of Meritage restaurant, Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley market and cafe, and Eric Olesen, owner and president of O&H Danish Bakery of Racine.

The winner gets $2,500 in seed money, an entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC, $500 in professional cookware from Boelter Superstore and a two-hour private meeting with food industry executives.


From “FVTC graduates follow their dreams” — Molly Willis tried the traditional four-year college route.

But after struggling to find the path she wanted to follow, the 25-year-old Oshkosh woman left the university behind, taking a job as a reception with the Bergstrom Automotive group.

Working closely with the administrative assistant, Willis realized that was what she wanted: a job that kept her busy every day, but never doing the same thing.

The Brookfield native began taking classes at Fox Valley Technical College in the administrative professional program, while she continued to work full-time.

“I knew what I didn’t want,” Willis said. “But (FVTC) had the administrative professional program and I thought that would be perfect for me and what I was looking for.”

Willis, along with nearly 1,000 others walked across the stage and collected their diplomas at Fox Valley Technical College’s spring commencement ceremonies at Kolf Sports Center Sunday.

Some of the graduates started at FVTC after graduating from high school, others waited before finding the path they wanted to go down and still others were switching career paths.

“Its never too late to follow your dream. You just have to have it. With the right amount of determination you can accomplish anything,” student commencement speaker Chandra Riley, a graduate of the culinary arts program, said. “All you have to do is set your mind to it. Visualize yourself achieving your goal and the steps to get there will fall into place on their own.”

For Abu Muhit, that dream involved a trip across the ocean and the realization of the vital role automobiles play in the United States.

The 25-year-old Oshkosh resident came to the United States from Bangladesh in 2008. Upon arriving, he realized that it was very common to have an automobile for everyday use and transportation.

“The place I’m from, we never had any cars,” said Muhit, who will be working at CarX in Fond du Lac as a technician. “I wanted to know about cars and how they work.”

Muhit originally enrolled at FVTC to improve his English. He eventually began taking classes in the automotive technology program, with hopes of owning his own auto shop in the future.

“You’re going to walk off this stage today and start a new life,” said Catherine Tierney, the president and chief executive officer at Community First Credit Union, who gave the commencement address.

For Willis, the new life will involve continuing her job at Bergstrom Automotive, where she will work as executive assistant to CEO John Bergstrom. It also means the possibility of continuing her education at a later date.

“Just having my associate’s degree, my options are much more open,” she said. “I’m seeing where the chips fall now.”

From “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 by submitting a short application and a photo of their recipe or product concept. Entry deadline is May 17.


From “FVTC Culinary Theater officially opens” – GRAND CHUTE — The new Culinary Theater at Fox Valley Technical College in Grand Chute is officially open.

The college held a ribbon cutting ceremony tonight for the new state of the art facility. The 8500-square-foot space features panoramic vantage points for cooking demos and food preparation narrations.

Culinary Arts Department Chair Chef Jeff Igel says, “This is awesome. Having this facility puts us as a cutting edge culinary program, it’s a wonderful facility to teach in. It’s like going to teach in Disneyland.”

The new theater allows 120 people to see the demos clearly and highlights the latest in high-teach kitchen equipment.

View video from

From “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.

Kenosha’s campus

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.

From “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.

From “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.

Stephanie Kaether

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.

From “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.

Saavy spenders

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.

Growing interest

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 “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 “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.”

The baker

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.

From “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.

Home cooking

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.”

From “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 “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.”

From “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.

From “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 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 “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,, 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.

Getting started

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.

From “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.

From “Fox West Cooking Show serves up sizzle and spice” — GREENVILLE — People searching for a way to spice up their meals should keep next Thursday evening open.

That’s when the third annual Chef Jeff’s Fox West Cooking Show will take place at Immanuel Lutheran School.

The popular event, which can accommodate about 400 guests, begins at 5 p.m. with vendor booths and food sampling. The show, conducted by Chef Jeff Igel, Fox Valley Technical College’s culinary arts director, and Mark Biesack, chef at Lawrence University in Appleton, begins at 7 p.m.

The cooking wizards will take the audience through a six-course meal menu, starting with an appetizer and concluding with dessert.

The event, a fundraiser for the school’s tuition assistance program, also features door prizes and cash prize drawings.

Igel and Biesack volunteer their time and talents for the show, adding wit and humor along the way to entertain the crowd.

But aside from humor, the Fox West Cooking Show aims to provide recipes and tips for any level of cook.

Tickets cost $15 and must be purchased in advance.

For more information, email

From “Teachers urge students to sign up for tech classes” — Watching the television episodes of “Super Nanny,” “Discover Wisconsin” or “Top Chef,” might give teens some of their earliest encounters with their future dream jobs, implies a brochure prepared by the Wisconsin Dells High School career and technology education department.

The enrollment period for next year’s classes begins Feb. 13, and teachers in the department are promoting their classes, which according to the brochure, can help teens have the same careers as those TV personalities have.

Some classes featured in the brochure are Child Development, Foods for Life, Interior Design, Medical Terminology and Fashion Careers.

“We want them to know about the electives, and we want to sell our department,” said Debra Hamburg, family and consumer science teacher at the high school.

Teachers spoke about their classes in an interview on Feb. 2. February is when students sign up for their classes and is also Career and Technical Education Month in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and Wisconsin Technical College System said in a release, “Nearly two-thirds of students in grades 6-12 participate in career and technical education courses, in fields like manufacturing, agriculture, business, family and consumer science, health occupations, marketing, technology and engineering.”

“Students need a wide range of rigorous, authentic career development experiences throughout their PK-12 education,” said state Superintendent Tony Evers in the release. “These will help them learn skills as well as chart their future course, which is an essential part of graduating ready for further education or the workforce.”

The courses are meant to ready students for the workforce, and that’s why they are referred to as career and technology education.

“It would give the kids more of an option, in my opinion, to really know what it would take to get into that career for the most part before they get into postsecondary education…” said Ethan Engevold, technology education teacher, adding that the students will be more prepared for a career.

Hamburg said the classes are important, given the way the state’s governor and other politicians are talking about how important the manufacturing industry is to Wisconsin.

“Our area is where they have to explore to get that taste of if they want to do it or not,” she said. “If they want to go to (a) four-year (college), fine, but we need kids in two-year and technical college and then get out right away and get a job,” she said.

Some classes at the high school can help students earn certified nursing assistant standing, which Hamburg said colleges want students to have in order to get into nursing.

For other categories, like manufacturing, Hamburg said part of the challenge being in Wisconsin Dells is there aren’t a lot of manufacturing internships for high school students as there are in other school districts. What Dells has a lot of- tourism business – the students don’t take a lot of interest in when it comes to attending a class.

Hamburg said the Dells has offered a tourism and hospitality class, but hasn’t been able to fill it.

“I’m not sure why we can’t fill that class, but maybe it’s because they’re working so young,” Hamburg said. She added, maybe because the students’ parents are in the business, the students feel they don’t need the class.

The building trades class is always looking for remodeling or construction projects that students can do, Engevold said.

One of the classes being offered again that hasn’t been offered every year is mass production enterprise which teaches students how to determine what product to make, how to market it, build it, sell it and what to do with the profits, Engevold said.

In addition, the department has Supermileage and Electrothon courses which give students the chance to design and build cars and compete with them for best fuel mileage and farthest distance traveled with an electric motor and batteries, said autos and metals student teacher Dustan Garrigan.

Students raise the money to pay for the projects, he said.

Garrigan is scheduled to graduate from UW-Platteville in May. He is a Portage High School graduate who went to school first for engineering and later switched to teaching.

“The big part I want to stress is that college isn’t for every kid. I think we all know that college isn’t for every kid, and I think industry is a great thing. Even just going to an MATC or a tech college just to get that certification in something to be with your hands. …I remember when I was in high school all the counselors told you you’re going to fail in life if you don’t go to a four-year college. And that’s not the truth of the matter,” Garrigan said.

Several courses in the career and technology education department are required for graduation. They are Career World and Personal Finance.


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