group of student chefs and instructors standing behind a prep table

Free Culinary Chef Series Draws Large Crowd for First Event


More than 60 people from throughout the Northwoods recently streamed into the Nicolet College Culinary Arts Dining Room for the first event in the college’s local Chef’s Series designed to inspire culinary creativity for anyone interested.

Nicolet Culinary Arts Instructor Mitch Below kicked off the series, demonstrating how to prepare several delectable dishes for his fall harvest supper. Fare for the evening included smoked trout pate’ atop gluten-free wild rice crackers, harvest green salad with maple cider vinaigrette and candied pecans and fluffy Parker House rolls served with herbed butter.

During the free event Chef Mitch explained how, whenever possible, he has a strong preference for locally sourced ingredients.

“One of the main reasons is that it is simply fresher,” he explained. “Fresh food tends to be much more flavorful than something coming from across the country or even across the world. Fresh food also has a higher nutrient value and it helps support the local economy. So if I can find quality food locally, I’m all over it.”

Students in Nicolet’s Culinary Arts program also assisted with the event, assisting with meal preparation and plating so those in attendance could sample Below’s creations.

The audience ranged from community members and former students to restaurant owners and prospective students.

"I had a fantastic time,” said attendee Bill Fricke, owner of the Boathouse and Hazelhurst Pub. “Chef Mitch put on a great demonstration of some outstanding food, broken down in a way anyone would feel comfortable attempting at home. Color, texture, and flavor combinations were beautifully paired, and his recipes are a perfect fit with the upcoming holidays."

The next Chef Series event will take place Wednesday, Jan. 18, starting at 5 p.m. in Nicolet’s Culinary Arts Dining Room located in the Northwoods Center on the Rhinelander campus.

Luke Olejniczak, a private chef working in the Eagle River area, will prepare Smoked Duck Breast with Wild Rice Risotto and a Port Wine Reduction Sauce.  More information about the event can be found at

The Nicolet College Culinary Arts program offers several credentials including two associate’s degrees, one in Culinary Arts and the other in Culinary Management; a technical diploma, and several certificates including a Baking certificate and a Catering certificate.

While many students enroll in the Culinary Arts program to train for careers, Nicolet Dean Ellen Mathein noted the classes are also open to interested community members who are seeking to improve their own skills for personal use.

Click here more information about the college’s Culinary Arts program and the college in general or call (715) 365-4493.


Photo cutline: Community members recently filled the Nicolet College Culinary Arts Dining Room for a free cooking demonstration by Nicolet Culinary Arts Instructor Mitch Below, who recently joined the college faculty. Below comes to Nicolet with 16 years of executive chef experience, having worked at premiere restaurants around the world. He now shares that experience and knowledge with Nicolet students.