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65 year old Little Chute man set to graduate from FVTC culinary arts program

At 65 years old, Vande Voort is more than twice the age of the classmates he cooks with.
Updated: May. 11, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (WBAY) - Fox Valley Technical College is holding its spring commencement on Sunday. For one of the graduates, it will be the first time he walks across the stage -- despite having other degrees from the tech school.

Ione’s restaurant, run by students in Fox Valley Technical College’s culinary arts program, reopened this semester -- after being forced to close because of the pandemic. Mike Vande Voort is one of the student chefs on staff.

“Being the back of the house, I created the menu for this week and executing it, working with the staff to get everything done. It’s kind of hectic back there for the first hour and a half and then you can just take a breath,” says Vande Voort.

At 65 years old, Vande Voort is more than twice the age of the classmates he cooks with. Most of them are just starting out, for Vande Voort this experience is yet another change of careers. He says, “After 30 years of working at NewPage in Kimberly, it shutdown. I came out here, earned two IT degrees and I went to work for Combined Locks and through their ownership changes I lost my job again and that brought me to culinary.”

As someone who likes to travel and experience the different foods, Vande Voort said studying culinary arts really made sense. He’s spent the past two years learning the ins and outs of the business and kitchen. Full of life experiences, he’s really been an asset to the program that has helped him grow as well. Chef Richard Williams, an instructor at FVTC says, “It comes down to personality, it’s not an age thing. If you’re a nice person and willing to work as a team, this group they all get along well, it works. You get out what you put in and I think he’s had a good journey here at school.”

Not only is Vande Voort a good student and classmate, but his food speaks volumes about his talents too. Williams adds, “He’s good. He cooks. It’s a passion of his.”

And while Vande Voort doesn’t anticipate working in a restaurant kitchen, after graduation, he says he will probably use his skills to do private chef work a couple of times a month.

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