If you have ever enjoyed a great meal at one of the area’s fine dining establishments, chances are your dish was prepared by a student who honed his/her skills at the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island (CIVI) located on the campus at Vancouver Island University (VIU).
Over the years, VIU’s culinary program has developed a reputation for being one of the top chef training institutions in Canada and program coordinator and chef instructor Debbie Shore has been part of the successful program for 20 years now.
Shore calls Parksville home and she has been commuting to VIU’s Nanaimo campus since 1993 sharing her passion for cooking with hundreds of students.
A graduate of the program herself, Shore admitted there are many students the program can brag about.
“The day that I started I shook hands with someone who was just graduating and they are now the corporate director for the Middle East Hilton International. We have grads everywhere.”
While there is always something great being prepared at the CIVI these days several students are sharpening their cooking and baking skills to prepare for a variety of culinary competitions that will take place over the next few months.
With the support of the dedicated Culinary Arts faculty, the students are putting in a lot of overtime hours to perfect recipes and dishes they hope will lead to success at the various competitions.
Among the talented students vying for medals are Brian Kremer, Adam Long, Shaun Saunders, Allegra Jimenez and Connor Berg.
Kremer has already proven his talent by taking silver at the recent B.C. Chef’s Junior Chapter 17th Annual Hot Competition in Vancouver.
Berg is a high school student from Parksville taking part in a program which allows students to begin post-secondary trades and technical programs during their Grade 12 year.
Berg is planning to compete in the Skills Canada High School Competition in April. There, he’ll be tasked with preparing a two course meal in three hours.
Berg will be facing some friendly competition at the Skills Canada event as his classmate Long will also be vying for a gold medal.
Berg isn’t worried about their rivalry though – he thrives on the pressure of the competition and the fast paced environment. He also competed at the Hot Competition in Vancouver and appreciates that their instructors travel with them, cheering them on.
“It makes a huge difference to have a friendly face out there, as the competitions are very intense,” he confessed.
According to Shore, not every culinary program encourages students to compete. “Competitions aren’t part of the curriculum, but we feel it’s really important to create these opportunities for students. It’s a great way for them to hone the skills they’re learning in class such as team-building. Competitions also give students an opportunity to network with chefs from across Canada.”
Some world renowned chefs recently tasted a signature dish prepared by VIU student Kellie Callender at the prestigious S. Pellegrino Almost Famous chef competition held in Toronto last weekend.
The VIU Culinary Diploma student competed with some of the brightest students from over 75 culinary institutions across the United States and Canada.
Although Callender’s Salmon Confit wasn’t enough to get him into the finals of the competition in the Napa Valley, it did earn him the People’s Choice award.
Shore agreed that just having the opportunity to be a part of the competition was an incredible opportunity for Callender and predicted he is well on his way to becoming a culinary star who got their start at the CIVI.