13:11 PM

Waukesha County Technical College, Kettle Moraine High School students prepare Thanksgiving meals


PEWAUKEE, Wis. (Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019) – For the past eight years, Chef Jack Birren, an instructor in Waukesha County Technical College’s (WCTC) Culinary Management program, and his students, have prepared turkey dinners for families in need. They are at it again this year, but with a new twist -- they’re being joined by Culinary Arts students from Kettle Moraine High School (KMHS) and their instructor Elyse Pett.

In all, the College and high school students are cooking 25 turkeys plus all the traditional sides – stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, biscuits, vegetable du jour and pumpkin pies (made by WCTC Baking and Pastry students) -- to make the fall holiday brighter for some local families. Twenty of the turkeys will be going to WCTC students in need and their families, and five will be going to an organization determined by the KMHS students.

The students will prepare the meals in WCTC’s Principles of Food Preparation, Culinary Nutrition and Culinary for Bakers courses.

The Thanksgiving meal project has provided students with insight and hands-on practice into what it takes to cook large quantities of food (such as 50 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes!), but moreover, Birren said the best lesson is what the students take away from the experience.

“I’ve always been huge on giving back to the community,” Birren said. “It’s exciting to see my students realize what they are doing is having an impact on people’s lives; I love seeing that every year. And this year, we’re able to share that experience with the KM students.”

Preparing Thanksgiving meals for donation started at WCTC in 2011 on a small scale – four family meals – and has increased over time. Each prepared turkey and assortment of sides is enough food for a family of four, Birren said, and costs of the turkeys are covered through a generous donation from an anonymous WCTC employee, along with additional donations from the Hospitality, Baking and Culinary Club, and a local food distributor.

The fully cooked meals are packaged, cooled and frozen, and then given to recipients with instructions on how to reheat.

“People underestimate the impact that food has on people’s lives,” Birren said. “If my students and I can bring back memories for someone from a meal they enjoy, that it so powerful – especially during the holidays.”

About Waukesha County Technical College

Waukesha County Technical College, the leader in workforce development, prepares learners for success within the region and global economy. The College offers more than 150 areas of study including associate degree, technical diploma, apprenticeship and short-term certificate programs. Customized training for employers is also available. To learn more, visit