GRAND CHUTE (WLUK) -- High school students from around the state got a taste of the culinary world.
Fox Valley Technical College welcomed students from 14 schools to compete in a culinary competition to move on to the national level.
With Wisconsin's food service industry expected to grow, it's a great way for students to get exposure to a culinary career.
Shrimp cups, pan seared salmon and a banana foster flambé were just some the dishes on the menu at the 2023 ProStart Invitational Culinary Competition.
"I've met a lot of people through these competitions and through these opportunities, and they grow my confidence a lot," said Liam Sullivan, a Kimberly high school junior.
Sullivan says he's been cooking as long as he can remember.
"I would like to go in the industry when I'm older," said Sullivan. "A goal would be to be an executive chef in a big city."
According to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, there were 239,200 restaurant and food service jobs in the state in 2021.
Wisconsin's food service industry is projected to grow by 15.7% by 2030, generating 37,500 additional jobs.
"Culinary isn't just a hallway; it's not a tunnel," said Olivia Koepke, culinary educator at Kimberly high school. "There's so much you can do."
This cook off is not only for those interested in cooking. This culinary competition also features a front of house competition for those who may want to work in the business side of the industry.
"I'm more into the human services industry," said Chase Vandenberg, a Kimberly sophomore.
Vandenberg says culinary coincides with human services.
"So, if I make a good dish and it makes someone happy, it makes my day, lights up my world," said Vandenberg.
"It's not chef or waitress," said Koepke. "It's huge and look at all the opportunities; you can meet different people in the industry. We have Gordon Food Service, so high VP, you have National Restaurant Association."
Included with some of these opportunities is the competition, which gives these students a sample of what the industry is like at one of the state's 10 culinary schools.
"It's an easy connection for them to see it here as a high school student and then come back for school later on," said Mike Balistrieri, Fox Valley Tech's culinary arts department chair.
Balistrieri says events like this help showcase what its culinary department is capable of.
"It's great for our students to see this as well," he said. "We have them walking around and seeing what the high school students are doing and then helping us out today."
"The Tech is definitely an option," said Sullivan. "It's very nice to know that I could go 20 minutes out my door and be at a school that has a very good culinary program. It's very nice."
Pualski High School was awarded first place for management.
Westosha was awarded first for culinary.
Both will represent Wisconsin at the national competition in Washington D.C.