Learning to Cook - The Young Chefs of Tomorrow
Learning to Cook - The Young Chefs of Tomorrow
Hands-on learning takes on a new meaning for 3,500 young chefs in 30 schools across the province participating in the Take a Bite of BC program. Taught by Red Seal Chef Instructors these culinary arts students not only learn professional cooking skills, but they gain a greater appreciation for the province’s sustainable resources by working with local, fresh, delicious ingredients that come from B.C. producers and farmers – including beef, chicken, salmon, artisan cheeses, and a variety of locally grown vegetables.
Hands-on experience is valuable in many facets of life, and this is especially evident for the 3,500 culinary arts students actively participating in the Take a Bite of BC program in thirty secondary school teaching kitchens throughout B.C. The culinary arts classes attract students that are looking for more than basic cooking skills so they can pursue careers in the food or hospitality industries, as well as students who are searching for something different to do that doesn’t require sitting in a classroom. In addition to teaching students about making informed food choices, the program also acts as a catalyst to promote careers in agriculture as viable and desirable career choices.
Taught by Red Seal Chef Instructors, these chefs of tomorrow not only learn cooking skills but they also have the opportunity to work with local, fresh, delicious ingredients that come from B.C. producers and farmers – including beef, chicken, salmon, artisan cheeses, and a variety of locally grown vegetables. Students that participate in Take a Bite of BC are able to gain a greater appreciation for the sustainable resources that are produced or grown in B.C., as well as the positive impacts on the economy by supporting local agriculture.
“We need to get the message out that without our farmers we’re relying on other provinces and countries to feed us, said Chef Trevor Randle, Culinary Arts Instructor at Maple Ridge Secondary. “From a culinary point of view, you can’t beat local B.C. agriculture. As a chef you can’t go wrong – environmentally and globally we’re reducing our footprint and, at the end of the day, it tastes better.”
Products used as part of this program are prepared by the culinary arts students and then served to 37,000 students and 3,000 staff members in the 30 schools throughout B.C., including the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, the Okanagan and Invermere. Last week the culinary arts students at Maple Ridge Secondary School prepared salmon that was raised by Marine Harvest in the waters off of Northern Vancouver Island. Chef Randle taught students how to cut, fillet and portion a whole salmon, and then showed them how cook the portions to create the perfect result.
“We’re teaching kids who are interested in going into the industry how to work safely and properly – the techniques of being a professional chef. In this classroom environment we’re able to implement a variety of foods,” said Chef Randle. “I think it’s a huge responsibility of chefs to support our agriculture and share with our next generation of decision makers the benefits of cooking and eating fresh food.”
The students were definitely proud of their work and enjoyed eating it when they were done. “It’s the best salmon I’ve ever had,” said Danielle Spencer, a grade 11 culinary arts student. “It’s not dry. No offense to my parents, but when they cook salmon, it’s dry. This is just everything...it’s so good!” She was not alone in her opinion. The students prepared 42 plates of salmon and these were sold out in less than fifteen minutes, even before the official lunch bell rang.
“The product that comes out of the kitchen every day is restaurant quality," said Trevor Connor, Principal at Maple Ridge Secondary School. “The program allows highly academic and non-academically inclined kids to take a course that is meaningful, but not necessarily onerous. Chef instills a tremendous sense of pride in the kids because they’re producing something that is very high quality. It builds community and it’s a focus for this school. He does a great thing for the kids.”
Now in its sixth year, Take a Bite of BC was launched in 2009 by the BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation and continues to expand into new secondary schools across the province. “The value of the program is two-fold,” said Lindsay Babineau, Executive Director. “The students get experience using products they wouldn’t normally have access to and are taught the benefits of working with fresh foods. The producers and growers, on the other hand, get their products in front of future chefs who will be working with food as a career.”
Chef Randle is one of the three founding chefs of Take a Bite of BC, and in 2011 he won BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation's Outstanding Teacher Award for his dedication to the program. He became a chef after being introduced to culinary arts in high school and then pursued a career as a teacher because it allows him to bridge his passions. He's been a Culinary Arts Instructor at Maple Ridge Secondary School since 2005 and teaches 200 students per year, due to the popularity of his classes. Principal Connor refers to Chef Randle as being “gifted” with the students. The true value of the culinary classes isn’t the skills they’re taught; it’s the confidence they gain in themselves.