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Student-run restaurant brings real-life experience to culinary arts program

Story By Morgan Johnson
Local News Published 04/13/2021 4:04PM, Last Updated 04/13/2021 4:55PM
Rhinelander - Bedull Finken knew the Nicolet College Culinary Arts program was the place for her.

"Afterwards, I would like to open either my own café, bakery café, or like a food truck," said Finken.

From washing dishes to preparing the dessert, she gets all the experience she needs in the two-year program.

As a first-year student, Finken gets hands-on experience from each part of the kitchen.

"You get to be in every position you can think of from bakery to soups to head chef to sous chef, it is a wonderful experience," said Finken.

There's no doubt she gets to sharpen her skills working at the Top of the Hill restaurant on the Nicolet College campus in Rhinelander.

Vicki Mendham has been running the culinary arts program for 25 years.

"At the Top of the Hill dining, we have students that run the program," said Mendham. "The second-year students are creating the menus and first-year students are rotating through the positions to help assist the second-year students with that. So the second-year students get a lot of management experience."

And this year has been an experience unlike any other. Because of the coronavirus, operations took a turn.

"We really didn't know what to expect," said Mendham. "We didn't know if people were going to come, we didn't know how it was going to work for us and for our students."

But now that the season's over, one thing is certain: people like the food.

Despite the oddness to this year, the student-run Top of the Hill dining took advantage of people's appetites.

"We were full for every one of our meals this semester and we weren't really sure how that would was going to work," said Mendham. "With the pandemic, people were really happy to be able to still get a meal."

People ordered ahead of time, and students had time to get everything set before they delivered the orders curbside style.

"They didn't have the same dining experience that they would've, but it was definitely a different experience for our students and a skill that will still come in handy even once the pandemic is not around anymore," said Mendham.

A skill that Finken will take with for her future career in culinary arts.

"From not knowing restaurant at all to kind of diving right into this program just to meet my end goal of owning and having my own restaurant, it opens your eyes and it is a wonderful experience," said Finken.
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