At 12 years old, Rebecca Kam found her passion for cooking. Now she will be working amongst some of the best chefs in the province.
The Grade 11 Pen High culinary arts student has been training with chef Darin Paterson, who also owns Bogner’s in Penticton, as he prepares for the Gold Medal Plates competition in Vancouver on Nov. 16 at The Westin Bayshore. He will be bringing along up to seven students with him to the premier event that celebrates Canadian excellence in cuisine, wine, the arts and athletic achievement.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially for a high school student. I think it will open a lot of doors for me when I am done school,” said Kam, who plans on pursuing culinary education when she is finished high school.
Grade 10 student Jake Last also enjoys working in the kitchen and has a goal of becoming a chef himself, he also hopes to be chosen by Paterson for the upcoming event.
“I think Gold Medal Plates will be really cool. It will be a great learning experience and getting to work beside all of these top chefs makes it even better,” said Last.
Pen High has an early red seal program that sees kids who go for it graduate with credit for the first year of the internationally recognized four-year apprenticeship program. The culinary arts instructor Chris Garvey said they have been lucky to work with Paterson in the past for high school competitions, but this opportunity presents something more.
“It is rare that high school kids would be involved in something this high level, this is for professionals. The kids are really enthusiastic about it because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to this high level of competition and not just see what it is all about but actually participate,” said Garvey.
Chef Paterson was selected by Gold Medal Plates to compete in the event that is also a fundraiser for the Canadian Olympic Foundation and Own The Podium. Over the past six years it has raised more than $6 million for the cause.
While other chefs have large staff numbers to bring along with them, Bogner’s is a small kitchen and Paterson decided it would be a great way to assist him and provide a learning opportunity if he brought high school students from the culinary program at Pen High. It is a program close to Paterson’s heart as several students have graduated from Pen High kitchen and gone on to work with him at Bogner’s.
“There isn’t a lot of opportunity for them to go to an event like this. Hopefully the kids will get to see the potential. The industry isn’t all about fast food or working in a pub and deep frying chicken wings. This will let them see what other people do and what the options are first hand,” said Paterson.
Each chef will prepare one appetizer-sized dish for approximately 500 to 800 guests and must pair the dish with a Canadian wine or beverage. Each dish will be judged out of 100 points for visual presentation, texture, taste, wine compatibility, originality and wow factor.
Vancouver is one of 10 Gold Medal Plates competitions staged in Canadian cities this fall. Winners from each city will compete in the Canadian Culinary Championships held in Kelowna in February. The Vancouver event will feature 10 chefs: six from Vancouver, one from Tofino, one from Kelowna, Jeff Van Geest of Mirador at Tinhorn Creek Winery in Oliver and Paterson. Among those judging them will be past Gold Medal Plates winners, well respected North American chefs, award-winning authors and food critics. Blue Rodeo lead singer Jim Cuddy will be performing and the event will feature 25 Olympians, including Canada’s sole gold medalist from London, trampolinist Rosie MacLennan.