08:05 AM

WCTC Culinary students continue tradition of giving by preparing, donating Thanksgiving meals


Since 2011, students in Waukesha County Technical College’s Culinary Management program have prepared turkey dinners for families in need. Because of COVID-19, however, they had to take a break last year, but for Thanksgiving 2021, they have been busy prepping, cooking and packaging meals, which will be donated to 20 WCTC students and their families later this week.

In all, the Culinary students cooked 10 turkeys plus the traditional sides -- stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, maple glazed carrots and pumpkin pies (made by WCTC Baking and Pastry students), and a few pork loins -- in their Principles of Food Preparation, Garde Manger and Culinary for Bakers courses.

Preparing the Thanksgiving meals has given students insight and hands-on practice into what it takes to cook large quantities of food, but the best lesson is what the students take away from the experience, said Chef Jack Birren, WCTC Culinary Management instructor.

“It’s great to see this kind of camaraderie among students,” Birren said. “It’s one thing for the students to be in class and finish something that they are graded on, and it’s another to know that what they are doing is directly helping another student. It’s always been important to me to give back to the community.”

The holiday meals donation project started small 10 years ago – four family meals – and has increased over time. This year, the students are preparing enough turkey and sides for 20 family meals (four meals per family) for a total of 80 meals. Turkeys were donated from a WCTC instructor, along with additional contributions from the Hospitality, Baking and Culinary Club, and a local food distributor.

The fully cooked meals are packaged, cooled and frozen, and will be distributed to recipients today and tomorrow, along with thorough reheating instructions

In looking ahead to next year, Birren hopes to continue growing and expanding the service project. He is interested in pairing with a local civic or community group, and he also plans to partner with a local high school to get even more students involved.

“I’m interested in teaming up with an organization in Waukesha County to make this bigger to benefit the greater community,” he said.