PEWAUKEE, Wis. — It’s no secret that filling jobs in the hospitality field has proven challenging. While true for restaurant servers and bartenders, it’s also true for chefs.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said the number of jobs for chefs is expected to rise 15% by 2030.
With a growing industry and a finite number of qualified people, many soon-to-be chefs are finding themselves in demand as they enter the workforce.
Angelica Wells-Mendoza is a student in Waukesha County Technical College’s Culinary program. Wells-Mendoza plans to become a chef after graduation later this year.
For her, cooking is a way to share her passion with others.
“I have a lot of love to give. When I cook, I put a lot of love into the cooking. I love making people smile. I love that when somebody has a plate of my food, they can feel all the love,” said Wells-Mendoza as she grilled steak in the WCTC kitchen.
Wells-Mendoza said she feels she will be at an advantage when she graduates, especially given the number of chef jobs available across Wisconsin.
“Everyone is hiring, even in the fine dining industry,” said Wells-Mendoza.
In addition to lots of jobs, Wells-Mendoza said she is finding that people can move up in the industry faster.
“Now, some kitchens will automatically hire you as a sous chef if you have been in school and have a culinary management degree. That is probably unheard of ten years ago,” said Wells-Mendoza.
Andy Tenaglia is a culinary instructor at WCTC. Tenaglia said he has seen firsthand how many opportunities there are for his student chefs.
“Years ago, it was difficult to get into a restaurant. Things have dramatically changed now. Students can literally go wherever they want,” said Tenaglia.
Tenaglia said in recent weeks, he has had several large restaurant groups in the Milwaukee area reach out to him hoping to find new talent for their kitchens.
Still, entering the culinary field in the current economy doesn’t come without challenges. With staffing and budgets often tight, Wells-Mendoza said she is being trained to do it all.
She said being familiar with every aspect of restaurant operations is important, so she can fill in where needed.