With many kitchens in the Okanagan and across the province on the hunt for cooks, Okanagan College is hosting an info session next week to open doors to culinary careers for the next generation of chefs.
“The industry is screaming for cooks,” said instructor chef Mike Barillaro. “Over the summer, we heard from restaurants that had to cut back the days they could open because they didn’t have enough cooks. It’s an industry that really needs talented people, so we’re pushing hard to train enough cooks to fulfill the need.”
A new intake of Culinary Arts certificate program students will step into the classroom and the teaching kitchen this month. The next round of the program starts in February. Those interested in stepping into the February class are invited to drop into Infusions restaurant at the Kelowna Campus next Monday, Jan. 14 at 5 p.m. to learn more about the program and have their questions answered.
Jeremy Luypen, executive winery chef at Summerhill Pyramid Winery and an alumnus of the program, has been working with the College to train new cooks for the better part of a decade. He visits the very kitchen in which he honed his craft as often as he can to pass on his experiences.
“The best part of being a Culinary instructor is going back and being able to share my experience with the students and showing them that the program does work. I’ve seen a lot of students go through the program, and I’ve hired many too,” Luypen said.
Luypen is also quick to point out that the Okanagan makes an ideal training ground due to its bounty of local ingredients.
“One of the best parts of being a chef in the Okanagan is the food that we get to play with, and the wine that is at our fingertips or lips. It’s amazing what this valley produces. You are truly limited your own imagination and creativity,” Luypen said.
The latest labour market projections suggest that need isn’t going away any time soon. Between now and 2028, B.C. is going to need nearly 12,000 more cooks.
One of those newly minted culinary artists is Courtney Whalen, who will earn her Culinary Arts certificate at the college’s Winter Convocation on Saturday. Whalen will be among 482 graduates that day, spanning programs from Arts to Water Engineering Technology.
Whalen, who is originally from Northern Alberta, will be celebrating two accomplishments on Saturday. She will pick up her credential having already landed a dream opportunity with a buzzing local restaurant.
Last year, through a co-op placement, she found work with Sunny’s Modern Diner. She’s since been hired on beyond that 10-week co-op experience.
“I worked in a bakery when I was younger and my dad went to culinary school but I basically stepped into the program with not a lot of culinary experience. You could say I launched a new career from scratch, basically. It’s been remarkable how quickly it all came together,” Whalen said.
Whalen says the program helped to kindle in her a new direction, after pondering a career in business.
“I discovered I love cooking and making people happy through food,” she said.
Her advice for future chefs-in-training?
“Take notes. One of the things I picked up from the program at the College was the need for constant learning. It never stops,” Whalen said. “I keep a notebook on me at all times, and I’m always jotting down things the chefs say to me at my current job,” says Whalen. “It’s a very collaborative industry. I’m often getting feedback on my technique, learning more efficient ways to do certain things, and gathering inspiration for new flavours and new recipes.”
More information about the college’s Culinary Arts program is available at okanagan.bc.ca/fwt
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