GREEN BAY, Wisc. (WBAY) A dozen students at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College are turning their passion for cooking into a career.
Industry demand led the college to launch a culinary specialist program.
The class at NWTC comes with a few perks.
"Everybody has gained a few pounds since we started class," says culinary student Mechelle Johnson with a chuckle.
Johnson though, says she couldn't be happier.
"This has been my passion since i was a little girl in the kitchen with my grandmother, my aunt," says Johnson.
Today, she's in the kitchen with 11 other students just completing their first semester of NWTC's new Culinary Specialist Program.
"The students have been great and it's just been an absolutely wonderful experience," says David Crawford, NWTC culinary program instructor.
Crawford spent more than 30 years in the restaurant and hotel industry as a chef.
That industry, which continues to grow in Northeast Wisconsin, is well aware of Crawford's students.
"They're highly sought after, we get calls all the time, people want to know if they're ready to go, the industry is starving for these people," says Crawford.
Half way through the one year program, the students are already balancing class and work.
"Right now we have 12 students, all of them are going to work this summer, we have some students that are going to Door County, some in Green Bay, some in Appleton," says Crawford.
"I've got a job right now, I got hired right away because I told them I was in the culinary program and this is actually one step closer to getting my own restaurant," says culinary student Josh Beeler.
It's a dream many of these students share.
"I'm probably going to go and work in the field, in the kitchen somewhere to save money, but ultimately you guys will probably look for me out in the area with my own restaurant," says Johnson.
16 new students will start their first semester in NWTC's culinary program in the fall.