Born into hospitality: Nicolet College instructor wins prestigious culinary award
“I was speechless… this is the greatest honor that I have been given.” Culinary Arts Instructor Vicki Mendham
By Eileen Persike
Nicolet College’s Culinary Arts program has another award to add to its stash. Instructor Vicki Mendham was recently honored as the college educator recipient of the 2015 Salute to Excellence Award, presented by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association Education Foundation.
“I was speechless, dumbfounded when they called me,” said Mendham. “I just couldn’t believe it because of all the college instructors in the state. It’s the greatest honor that I have been given.”
Mendham was nominated for the award by Chef Jeff Igel, a Fox Valley Technical College Culinary Instructor, and former UW-Stout classmate of hers. “Chef Vicki has been instrumental in growing the culinary arts programs at Nicolet College,” he wrote. The College Educator Award is given for Mendham’s dedication and commitment to the future of the foodservice industry.
Born into the restaurant business, her parents and now the family owns the Sunrise Lodge in Land O’Lakes, Mendham helps out whenever needed, but prefers to work in the kitchen. If she appears to be a natural teacher, that may be because education is also a family business.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my dad who moved to the Northwoods to teach at Nicolet,” she said.
One of the best parts of teaching culinary arts, according to Mendham is hearing from students once they have been out in the real world.
“They tell me what they’ve been doing, what restaurants they have been working at. I can go to many restaurants across the state and our former students are either cooking there or they own it,” Mendham remarked. “I also like when former students come back and tell me how they utilize the skills they learned through the program, even if they maybe complained about the class at the time!”
In addition to her work at Nicolet, Mendham is actively involved with WRA Education Foundation programs. She serves as a judge for the ProStart Invitational culinary high school competition as well as the coach for Nicolet’s competitive culinary arts teams.
The Salute to Excellence awards were presented at the 2015 Celebration of Excellence last weekend in Milwaukee. In keeping with the family theme, Mendham brought her parents, sister, sister-in-law and 12-year old daughter along for support.