A West Kelowna student is soaking up all knowledge she can while catering for the Canadian Culinary Championships.
“Being here is super cool, it’s such a different environment,” said Sevynn Bigattini, a Grade 12 student at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary and with Okanagan College’s culinary program.
While she does her cooking at Mount Boucherie and isn’t directly working with a top Canadian chef, watching the championships allowed her to experience the culinary arts on a grander scale, she said.
Eleven of Canada’s top chefs were in Kelowna competing in the championship over the weekend. Aspiring chefs from Okanagan College also had the unique opportunity to cook alongside them and learn from the best.
“Being at this competition, I’m speechless. Everything I’m seeing, like (to avoid) fingerprints on the plates, and little things like that to watch out for. I feel like I’m gaining so much so fast, it’s almost overwhelming,” Bigattini said.
She hopes to be a chef one day and after falling on hard times, that goal made her passionate about completing her final year of high school.
“My dad liked cooking as I was growing up. I kind of stopped going to school a little bit, but I got back into it with this class. Not only am a pumped to be back in school. I’m loving what I’m doing, and I have a reason to graduate and a path to follow,” she said.
“When I am cooking, even just chopping an onion is therapeutic for me and the pressure of being in a kitchen at dinner rush, that is my favourite time. That stress, you need that adrenaline working in a kitchen, I enjoy it so much.”
On Friday night, she spent three and a half hours observing the Mystery Wine Pairing Competiton at the Delta Grand, and even sampled a dish created by one of the chefs. Bigattini was up at 4 a.m. Saturday morning to prep as part of the catering team during the Black Box Competition.
“Being in this atmosphere and watching all these chefs do what they do is amazing,” she said.
Bigattini recently passed her professional cook level 1, and her next step is a graduate Grade 12 to continue on to level 2.
She hopes to improve her meat dishes, and can now whip up a mean Hollandaise sauce.
“I can definitely make a Hollandaise sauce without a recipe now,” she said.
Vincent Stufano, manager of the college’s Culinary and Pastry Arts program, said the culinary championships allow the students to get a hands-on experience of what the industry is like.
“The students are learning a lot, that’s a big thing… They are learning how chefs are thinking about food, at a much higher level than where they are now. Some of them (are) a month, a month and a half, into the program. They get to work with the chef that brings a different thing into all of this.”
The students also face pressure working with the chefs and build relationships which leads to potential job opportunities, he said.
At Friday night’s event, “they were very focused, they were enjoying themselves,” Stufano said.