Milwaukee Area Technical College 2005 culinary apprentice graduate Suzanne Schlicht revels in the heat, controlled chaos and teamwork of a restaurant kitchen. She can also stand the pressures of reality television.
Schlicht was chosen as one of 16 contestants for the sixth season of "Hell's Kitchen" on Fox-TV (WITI TV-6 in Milwaukee), which began July 21. The show pits chefs and cooks of all stripes in competition. Exacting chef Gordon Ramsey puts the group through weekly culinary challenges. Per the well-known reality show formula, one contestant is forced to leave the show at the end of each episode, largely based on performance. Schlicht was among the last five contestants before being eliminated on the Sept. 29 episode.
The eventual winner will earn a prestigious head chef position. The exposure and notoriety are a residual benefit for all contestants - especially the few finalists. Schlicht stopped by her alma mater after her "Hell's Kitchen" debut. All the segments were taped by then and she revealed nothing of how she ultimately fared. Schlicht has already "won" by being selected from among 10,000 who initially auditioned from around the country.
"My culinary background and MATC training were huge assets in getting on the show," she said in the college's culinary lab at the Downtown Milwaukee Campus. It's a culinary background that starts in the family kitchen. As one of 11 children, Schlicht would often help prepare family meals. A high school cooking class further developed interest. MATC's culinary apprentice program was a natural progression. "I wanted to go to MATC - it has the best career-focused culinary program around," she said.
MATC, Schlicht said, is also about getting students quickly to their goals. "I wanted to get into a career fairly quickly in something that I loved to do. From MATC's culinary program you can move right into a career," she said. During her apprenticeship and after graduation, Schlicht worked at Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro. Las Vegas was her next career stop, first as a chef at the recently opened Wynn Hotel and currently at Caesar's Palace.
John Reiss, MATC culinary arts instructor, with Suzanne Schlicht in the MATC kitchen.