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Exhibitors, students, and CEOs enter Bergstrom Hall at Mount Mary University, host of the 2018 FFF. All grabbed their Angelic Bakehouse backpacks containing a copy of FaB’s Career Pathway Brochure and proceeded to the custom name badge station before jumping in line for the Kick-Start Breakfast.

The Kick-Start breakfast was prepared by Mount Mary’s Culinary Team using products donated by Maglio Companies, Johnsonville, Milwaukee Pretzel. Co., Sargento, Sysco, Good Foods Group, Ocean Spray, Sendik's, and Valentine Coffee Co.


After everyone was seated, the program began with a welcome by Dr. Christine Pharr, President of Mount Mary University, our 2018 FFF host. She shared with students that Mount Mary now offers a Bachelor of Science Degree in Food Science Chemistry.  


Up next to the podium to greet the students and exhibitors was Shelley Jurewicz, Executive Director of FaB Wisconsin. She laid out the Farm-Factory-Fork career-based learning activities of the day that would start with the Kick-Start CEO Panel. She shared with students that the day’s career discovery experience was organized by FaB’s Talent Committee and made possible by our participating schools and companies – and our host, Mount Mary University.

Jurewicz asked, “Does everyone here like to eat and drink? Careers in this industry are never going away.”

To illustrate the lifelong career opportunities of food and beverage industry Jurewicz played FaB’s Be a Part of Something Big video. 

With the day’s foundation in place, Jurewicz introduced the members of the Kick-Start CEO Panel as they were invited up to the stage. Panelists focused on the multitude of pathways available in the food and beverage industry and that gaining experience and feeding your passion leads to lifelong careers that feed and quench the world better.

Each panelist was asked to share their personal food story – their path and passion that got them into their current position, their favorite food, and some words of wisdom.

"Hustle and never give up. When you hit a brick wall, break through it." - TrueMan McGee, Owner of Funky Fresh Spring Rolls

Moderator Trueman McGee has always loved food. His food story started when he realized he liked food so much that he found himself overweight. “Good, bad, happy, sad – we eat food,” he related. And while his technical degree in construction got him employment, it wasn’t feeding his passion. He found himself turning a determination to eat better into a passion into launching Funky Fresh Spring Rolls in 2012. Now he’s opened in the Grand Avenue Mall in Milwaukee, with ambitions to get his healthier, handcrafted, never fried spring rolls into your home. His favorite food is Buffalo Chicken Funky Fresh Spring Rolls.

"There is a huge spread of people required to get a product to the shelf. It doesn’t matter what your role – when you see your product on the shelf, you know you played a role." - Colin McDermid, Cereal Business Unit President at Kerry, Inc.

Panelist Colin McDermid’s food story started when he was 16 years old working in the fruit and vegetable department of an area grocer. He went on to get his degree in accounting, which took him to an accounting firm that focused on the food and beverage industry, then onto a Scottish whisky company, and eventually Kerry. It was Colin’s Scottish accent that caught the student’s initial attention as they then came to learn that careers in the food and beverage industry offer global opportunities. His favorite food is Indian.

"Stay true to what you believe in.  Get as much experience as you possibly can." - Katie Wessel, Co-Owner & CEO of Milwaukee Pretzel Co.

Panelist Katie Wessel’s food story started when she was 11 years old. Her parents were sick and there was a Thanksgiving Dinner to get onto the table. She stepped in and liked it. Debating a culinary career path, she opted for a degree in Business. Her job after graduating took her to Germany for a year with her husband where they fell in love with the German culture of beer and Bavarian pretzels. Together, it took them nine months after returning to the Milwaukee area to develop their authentic pretzel recipe.  In Milwaukee Pretzel Co.’s first in year in 2013, they made a few thousand pretzels. In 2017, they made two million handcrafted pretzels. Her favorite food is Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake.
"Regardless of where your school interests lie, you can find a place in food. It’s not just a chef, but a food scientist, engineer, sales, marketing, microbiology, and more." - Louie Gentine, CEO of Sargento Foods

Panelist Louie Gentine’s food story started at birth, being born into a family business started by his grandfather. His father took the reigns, and Louie is now the third generation CEO of Sargento. He started with odd jobs at the company, like washing trucks. He went on to get his degree in Finance and graduated with an interest in marketing and strategy. In 2000, he was back at Sargento putting his early career experience and education to work for this family company. His favorite food is grilled cheese.
"Be the best you can be in high school. Be on time, prepared, respectful, and enthusiastic. Enthusiasm will take you a long way. Passion and education are the great duo of success." - Giacomo Fallucca, Chairman & CEO of Palermo's Pizza

Panelist Giacomo Fallucca’s food story started as a young boy in his father’s bakery. “I lived there, bussing tables, washing dishes. I loved being in the food environment,” he said. His father sold the bakery in 1979 and started Palermo’s, a French bread frozen pizza company. He loved the creativity of the pizza business and was hooked on how food united people. Giacomo took advantage of programming at Milwaukee Area Technical College to learn the fundamentals of business, and then it was back to Palermo’s that today employs 800 people. His favorite food is spaghetti and meatballs. 
The Kick-Start Panel was rounded out by student Q&A. Twelve students from six of the participating high schools braved the crowd of nearly 350 and made their way to the stage to ask their questions of the CEOs. To catch all the answers, watch our Kick-Start CEO Panel.
  • Sheboygan Falls: What characteristics do you need to thrive in the food industry?
  • Sheboygan Falls: Do you think traveling the world helps?
  • Plymouth: How do you prepare a company to start?
  • Vincent: How do you get the funding to start?
  • Washington: How do you keep up with other companies?
  • Washington: The name of your product is fun and catch (referring to Funky Fresh) – were you worried people would get it?
  • Washington: Your family started Palermo’s did you go to college?  
  • Kettle Moraine: What is the most difficult part of your day?
  • Kettle Moraine: How do you keep your product local?
  • Plymouth: How do you get your main source of customer feedback?
  • Indian Trail: What motivated you to get past giving up?
  • Waupun: What’s next for your company?


11:00 - 11:15 AM - BREAK

With 27 exhibitors, comprised of 23 food and beverage companies and four colleges/universities, the students received a broad stroke introduction to the industry including ingredients, consumer products, and packaging makers, grocery retail, and even professional service firms focused on the industry.


Exhibitors came with industry professionals prepared to share the personal food stories that have shaped their careers. And they came prepared to engage students with career discovery activities design to offer a memorable glimpse into how their companies are making better food and beverage. Better, as in cleaner, closer, smarter, safer, bolder. They also came with product samples and swag.

Baker of non-GMO, all-natural, sprouted grain bakery. Incorporated a beach ball toss to students who answered questions about sprouted grain products.


Developer of natural ingredients. Had students puzzle together the fermentation process and peer into a microscope at finished cultures after fermentation.


Wisconsin vocational and technical college. Asked students to visually compare two quantities of cheese on a pre-made pizza, and with an educational poster, discover the financial impact of waste and lack of portion control.


Maker of aseptic dairy products.

Maker of sausage products.


One of the world’s largest manufacturers of Old World-style Italian bread.


Maker of flavors and seasonings. Offered a testing of students’ sensory skills in a Dorito Triangle Test.


Maker of sausage products. Engaged students in learning about the difference between fermented and non-fermented sausage.

Co-packer of non-alcoholic beverages. Demonstrated carbonization and asked students to explain their experience in drinking a carbonated vs. non-carbonated drink.


Technology/service provider for the beverage and liquid food industry. Offered a matching game for students to match various bottles to their customer label.


Higher education university. Focused on food safety sanitation and what is seen and unseen to the naked eye. Students swabbed surfaces and transfered the swab onto a microbiology plate.

Producer of canned and frozen vegetables.

Industry risk management and insurance advisor. Used the interactive problem-solving game, Problems & Preventions, to facilitate students matching a problem to the type of prevention needed to ensure food safety.

Top-quality fresh produce supplier. Had students focus on two items to demonstrate the value-added benefits of High Pressurized Processing (HPP), including food safety.


Leader in private label cheese packaging.


Vocational and technical college. Students tested the pH of beverage products and related the analysis to food safety.


Private Catholic university. Offered students tours of their new food science chemistry and sensory evaluation labs.

Maker of the world’s finest Applewood smoked meats. Tested students’ phones for bacteria growth to demonstrate the importance of sanitation and introducing them to new testing technology.


Grower and maker of cranberry products.


Maker of frozen pizzas. Offered students two different cheese toppings - one low-fat mozzarella and the other whole milk Wisconsin mozzarella - to discuss their differences: cost savings, nutrition facts, etc.

Full-service staffing provider. Offered the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Challenge, engaging students in a competition to put on the correct protective gear for working in a food and beverage manufacturing plant.


Leading maker of sliced, shredded, and snack natural cheese products. Took students through their new product development process and a sensory experience of their new award-winning snack.


Producer, marketer, and distributor of dairy products.


Your trusted, local grocer since 1926. Had students match pictures of produce and names of farms and locate them on a Wisconsin map to demonstrate the sourcing of locally-grown fruit and vegetables.


Your partner in finding a great job. Gave students a “career passport” that sent them on a mission to meet professionals working at various roles at some of the exhibiting companies.

Advanced liquid tight packaging manufacturer. Engaged students in learning about different packaging material and having them seal the packages.


Lutheran higher education university. Assisted FaB in the Farm-Factory-Fork Ideation Zone. Students were asked to share their ideas to address three problems:


Problem 1: One out of seven people go hungry every day in America. What ideas do you have for companies to better feed those who go hungry?

Top three responses:

  • Donate more food at or near expiration
  • Donate leftover food, day old food
  • Lower prices of food

Problem 2: Companies need to hire top talent like you. What ongoing interaction would you like to have with the companies you met today?

Top two responses:

  • Interact with us through social media
  • Open your doors, show us what you’re like, field trips, internships

Problem 3: Students need a snack during the day to stay alert. What product idea do you have that would make an ideal snack?

Top three responses:

  • Easy to carry, open and eat on the go
  • Product that tastes good and fuels energy
  • Portion size enough to satisfy an appetite