Mike Balistrieri followed his father’s footsteps into the kitchen. By the time he was in eighth grade, Mike knew he wanted to become a chef. Fox Valley Technical College was an easy choice since it was close by and his chef father had some connections with the instructors.
“Fox Valley Tech was a great way to be introduced to the culinary world,” Mike said. “The instructors come from diverse backgrounds and the different kitchens allow students to dabble in different areas of the culinary industry.”
During his enrollment at Fox Valley, Mike worked at The Seasons restaurant. He also completed an externship in Germany where he studied language and culinary arts and apprenticed in a hotel kitchen for nine months.
“At Fox Valley, I was introduced to state-of-the-art equipment and wonderful local ingredients,” he recalled.
After graduation, he spent one year as a sous chef and another year as executive chef before taking a position as general manager at a resort style retirement facility. The next step in his career was serving as sous chef for a year under Chef Tory Miller at L’Etoile in Madison.
Mike returned to the Fox Valley to become executive chef at Connova’s Pizzeria and Fine Italian Dining. During that time, he completed the American Culinary Federation certification at the urging of FVTC instructor Chef Jeff Igel.
“It was pretty rigorous,” Mike said. “The exam covers basic skills and practical skills. You have to prepare a three-course meal in three hours.”
In the various kitchens where he worked, Mike was constantly teaching students who worked under him. He enjoyed watching their progression. Naturally, Mike jumped at the opportunity to become an instructor at Fox Valley Technical College.