Engineering His Way to a Culinary Career




Why would a seasoned engineering technician with 15 years of experience at one of the most popular sausage brands in the U.S. want to move to the foodservice side of the business? Because, he says, he wants to put himself in a position where he can directly impact end users: consumers.

Shawn Engel’s change in career path began in 2021 with a job shadow at Johnsonville which exposed him to the culinary side of the company, including crafting menu items for Lambeau Field. Inspired by his experience, Engel set his sights on transitioning his career toward creating memorable experiences for consumers enjoying Johnsonville sausage products.

Engel learned from a culinary team leader that he would need an associate degree in a culinary field to join that team. Making a career change can be difficult. As a husband and a father of two teenage daughters, Engel discussed his interest with his wife, Jennifer. They decided pursuing a culinary arts education would have minimal impact on their home life. 

Engel, a Kohler resident, investigated his options and chose Lakeshore Technical College based on location, cost, and American Culinary Federation accreditation. He also discovered Johnsonville’s generous tuition reimbursement plan and requirement that he stay employed with the company for one year after completing his degree.

In fall 2022, Engel began taking courses at Lakeshore as a part-time student while maintaining his full-time job at Johnsonville. “My current role is extremely flexible and I’m allowed to leave for class as needed, as long as I get in my 40 hours per week. It can make for long days depending on the class schedule that semester,” says Engel. 

Engel has impressed Culinary Arts Instructor and Program Coordinator Amanda Weber. “In my experience, exceptional students stand out due to their remarkable dedication, intelligence, and passion for learning. Shawn imbodies these qualities in his academic work and through his exceptional creativity, critical thinking, and leadership skills. His insatiable curiosity and drive to succeed sets him apart and inspires his peers to strive for excellence,” says Weber.

Learning side-by-side in the classroom with students half his age, Engel finds the dynamic interesting. The 46-year-old says he gets excited seeing the younger students begin their careers and start their journeys. “It has opened my mind a little as well, reminding me that we all have a different story and that everyone might approach a situation or task differently.” 

At home, Engel says his new career path has not impacted his family’s life all that much. “In fact, I would say it somewhat improved our lives because of all the wonderful creations I've learned to cook!”  

Though completely supportive of Engel’s new career path, Johnsonville makes no promises about having a job open for him when he graduates in May 2025. Engel wants to pursue a role involving product validation, recipe creation/verification, and catering internal and external events. 

“It's important for Johnsonville to show the public that we are involved with the surrounding community. But one of the coolest things I got/will get to do is work with the culinary team from Lambeau Field in creating menu items for the upcoming football season,” says Engel. “This includes the tough task of doing an audit on gameday in which I eat my way through Lambeau Field. You know, to ensure quality!”

In 2023 Johnsonville began sponsoring Summerfest and the Milwaukee Bucks. It already had sponsorship agreements with the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers. The sausage maker doesn’t seem to be slowing its pace of Wisconsin sports and entertainment sponsorships, so perhaps it will need to beef up its culinary team by 2025. 

Looking ahead, it appears possible many games and concerts may be enjoyed along with some tasty sausage creations developed at the hands of Shawn Engel. 

For information about Lakeshore’s culinary arts programs, visit

Shawn Engel
Shawn Engel


About Lakeshore Technical College

Lakeshore Technical College is a comprehensive community and technical college educating more than 9,000 students annually. Students enroll at Lakeshore to master real-world, employable career skills and start their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Lakeshore faculty and staff are focused on providing each student an individualized learning experience.
Lakeshore Technical College is a nationally recognized two-year college. The college was ranked #2 in the nation by Washington Monthly, #17 in the nation by Forbes, #20 in the nation by, a top-150 two-year college by the Aspen Institute, a 2024 Bellwether Award winner, and named the 2021 Large Business/Industry of the Year by the Chamber of Manitowoc County.
Approximately 800 students graduate from Lakeshore each year, and associate degree graduates report earning a median salary of $59,899 within six months of graduating. In addition to the Cleveland campus, Lakeshore educates students at learning campuses in downtown Manitowoc and downtown Sheboygan. Classes are also offered at additional sites throughout the district. Visit Lakeshore at