If you’ve eaten a meal recently at Birchwood Farms Golf and Country Club in Harbor Springs, there’s a good chance that many of the finer details that make a meal delicious and memorable were prepped at the hands of Luke Kurburski.

As the “garmo,” or pantry chef, Kurburski prepares all the cold foods and salads and their ingredients – chopping vegetables, making house-made dressings, creating and presenting desserts, and making sure all the ingredients that executive chef Rob Antoine needs for each meal are fresh and ready to go.

“It didn’t take Luke much time to catch on,” said Antoine. “He is really reliable, was prepared out of high school, and does a great job for us.”

Char-Em ISD’s Career and Technical Education team celebrated Kurburski’s entrance into the culinary workforce during a Career Tech to Careers signing event on Sept. 6, 2023, at Birchwood. The Career Tech to Careers initiative recognizes the decision of high school graduates to enter careers after earning diplomas, specifically those students whose high school careers included CTE classes.

Kurburski is a 2023 Petoskey High School graduate who took the Culinary Arts class, a career tech program taught by Bill Sommerfeldt, for two years. His interest in cooking grew while in the class, and he began to envision it as a career path. Now out of high school, that is exactly what he’s doing at Birchwood as he learns the ins and outs of the fine food business that is the lifeblood of northern Michigan’s tourist and resort industries. He joined their staff in May 2023.

Antoine said while kitchen crews are typically in the younger age range – Kurburski is 19 – the skills he brought with him from Sommerfeldt’s class are not always found in new staff learning the ropes. Kurbuski noted that the transition from school to work was helped by the high school’s culinary program, which is set up like a restaurant atmosphere, giving students what feels like real-world experience while under instruction in everything from food prep to food safety.

Sommerfeldt said that Kurburski was a successful student in his program, and someone “he could always count on.” Kurburski was also a Skills USA competitor in regional and state contests, where students prepare and present high-level foods. Kurburski prepared a five-level torte and a lattice-topped pie that wowed the judges. He said the more time he spends cooking the more he realizes he likes working with desserts, though he enjoys all the aspects he’s learning under chef Antoine.

“I really enjoy being in the kitchen and talking with colleagues. I really like everything about it,” said Kurburski, who works approximately 36 hours a week, six days a week.

Sommerfeldt said he was proud to see his student finding success in a field he enjoys. “I’ve known Luke for many years, first through Boy Scouts and then through the high school,” he said. “He’s really a great kid. He was my right arm in class. He was always willing to help, and I didn’t have to explain a lot to him. He has a natural talent for cooking.”

Do you know a recent high school graduate who would make a great feature for Char-Em ISD Career and Technical Education Department’s “Career Tech to Careers” initiative? If so, please fill out this form and submit to our CTE team!

Photo caption:
A recent Career Tech to Careers signing event celebrated Luke Kurburski, center, a 2023 Petoskey High School graduate and now pantry chef at Birchwood Farms and Country Club. Pictured with Kurburski are (front row, from left) PHS Culinary Arts teacher Bill Sommerfeldt; Jim Rummer, Char-Em ISD Director of Career and Technical Education; and Executive Chef Rob Antoine; back row, from left, Hannah Sanderson, CTE Consultant with Char-Em ISD; and Cathy Schanski, a new Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) specialist working with students at PHS.

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