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The terrific growth of the West Shore in recent years, paired with the strong building sector, has resulted in an explosion of food service businesses. It’s been a challenge for these operations to attract and retain qualified cooks and chefs. Cooking food professionally has always been a field where passion overrides the desire to make big bucks. Yet, in today’s marketplace, those who have the necessary skills, both technical and interpersonal, are in very high demand. When paired with a strong business sense and a determination to push the boundaries of gastronomic creativity, cooks in our current landscape can expect to be hugely successful.

As days gradually get longer and warmer, I start thinking about the new food-growing season in our back yard, sundeck, patio, and window ledges. Our dependence on imported food, both from off island and beyond, has become so acute, it’s putting us at the mercy of global corporations and giant retailers for the very nutrition that we all need to sustain us.

Be around food every day, like I am, and eventually you’d realize that the way you feel about food is very different from the everyday reality of most people in our society! Sadly, for the past 50 years, North Americans have been progressively disassociating themselves from the value of the ingredients and dishes that sustain them. It seems to me that we are in a phase where the notion of preparing, sharing, relishing, and socializing around food appears to be shifting to convenience foods—preferably food you can eat with your hands. Certainly, there are ‘foodies’ who embrace the principles of healthy, sustainable, local, community driven food systems; but in general, busy lives shape the way most people eat today.

As winter begins to recede in our tropical corner of the Great White North, my thoughts start to anticipate springtime with its Valentine’s Day and Easter festivities. These occasions bring copious amounts of chocolate and sweet delights guaranteed to satisfy even the most indulgent, sweet-toothed chocoholic.

While students in the Professional Cook program learn pastry and baking skills all year round, this time of year provides wonderful opportunities to explore those culinary techniques—ones that are loved above all else.

Camosun College Professional Cook Training relishes new ideas along with new beginnings. We are very excited to become a regular culinary contributor to the ‘GoWestShore Magazine.’ In this first article, I would like to introduce you to one of the most successful Red Seal designated Professional Cook programs in Canada.

In addition to the rigorous daily technical training at the Interurban campus cafeteria and the well-known ClassRoom Restaurant (www.camosun.ca/dining), the Professional Cook Training program has a range of active community-engaging initiatives for apprentices that offer them an optimum range of applied learning opportunities.

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