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Opportunities "everywhere" for new culinary grads

Posted at 6:13 PM, May 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-04 10:49:44-04

Disney, Universal, and the ski-resort town of Vail, Colorado.

They are vacation destinations for tourists.

But they can be work opportunities for graduating culinary students.

"I'm really interested in working at a theme park," said Grace Horohoe, a culinary student who is graduating soon from Lakeshore Technical College in Manitowoc County and had an interview scheduled with a theme park.

The opportunities are "everywhere," said Horohoe's instructor, Chef Amanda Weber.

"Last year, I had a student who, [during] the week of graduation... got an offer from a ski resort in Vail, and he's still out there in Colorado and loving it," said Weber, who is the program coordinator for the Culinary Arts program at Lakeshore Tech. Disney and Universal reach out to the program, Weber said.

But opportunities around the country can mean local hospitality businesses face tough competition.

"We all fight for those graduating students out here in the hospitality industry," said Sue Lamers, the general manager of Grand Meridian banquet hall in Appleton.

Lamers is a past chair of a local chapter of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

"We are always looking... to hire in the kitchen," Lamers said.

Grand Meridian's wages for kitchen staff are at least 50 percent higher than before the pandemic, Lamers said.

Weber, at Lakeshore Tech, said higher pay in the industry is common.

Pay for entry-level restaurant positions "...has increased, almost doubled over the last two to three years," Weber said.

"Demand, especially for starting positions, has really gone up."

She said that is because when some restaurants closed during the pandemic, some people left the industry and did not return.

But these new graduates from Lakeshore Tech can be part of the next generation.

And Weber said most graduates stay local.

"We definitely have people from local areas, all the way up to Green Bay, down to Milwaukee, right along the lakeshore who really reach out to us and say, 'Hey, we're looking,'" Weber said.