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Culinary Student Finds Her Path at Blackhawk Technical College

December 20, 2018

It all started with a radio advertisement. After years of odd jobs and moving around to several cities, it was time for Caroline Gunn, of Janesville, to settle down and find her path.

Caroline Gunn in KitchenShe tried attending U-Rock and Madison Area Technical College; she tried jobs like customer service, postal carrier, and pharmacy technician. But after becoming a mom, she wanted more than working 50-plus hours a week at a job she did not love. “Having a child changes everything,” said Caroline.

With some encouragement from her mom, Caroline visited Blackhawk Technical College and fell in love with the Culinary Arts Program. “I’m so glad she made me do it. Moms know best.”

“Caroline made a positive impression upon me the first day of class. I could see immediately she was serious about culinary arts. When I learned that she was a single mother working full-time as well as carrying a full class load, I was further impressed,” said Chef Mark Olson, Culinary Arts faculty member at BTC.

She is in her second year of the Culinary Arts program looking forward to graduation in May 2019. Caroline recently completed her externship at the world-class Hotel Madrid in Milwaukee, and she credits them for being very accommodating with her schedule as a student and a mom. When describing all the delicacies she was able to try during the externship, she closed her eyes, her face lit up and she smiled widely talking about things like antelope, dry aged steak and acorn-fed pig.

But what really lights up Caroline is when she talks about her three-year-old daughter. “Baking is my thing,” explained Caroline, “and I love when I get her involved in the creative process.” Baking with a toddler has to be simplified, she explained, and admitted to using a box mix to make things less complicated. The important thing is spending time with the one she loves doing what she loves.

One of the things she appreciates most about the Culinary Arts program is the opportunity to experiment with recipes. “We have the freedom to make recipes our own.” 

Caroline Gunn mixing ingredients in the kitchenAnd make it her own, is what she intends to do. She longs to open her own café, bakery and garden, a place she dreamt up during one of her early program courses, Food Service Industry and Menu Design taught by Chef Katie Koel. Caroline said the idea was inspired by Chef Joe Wollinger, BTC Culinary Arts faculty, and his passion for creating farm-to-table educational opportunities for his students.

“I want to keep ingredients local, from Wisconsin, and to grow what I can in my own garden,” said Caroline.

She describes her BTC culinary instructors as mentors; they are more than teachers. “Everyone wants to give up sometimes. I am thankful I didn’t. I am thankful I found this program and I am thankful for my instructors; my mentors.”

Caroline encourages other adult students looking for more to consider returning to school. “Just do it. Years from now, you’ll remember what you didn’t do. Don’t have regrets. If you don’t try, you will never know.”

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