For the last nine years, Okanagan College culinary students were provided with the unique opportunity to work with established Canadian chefs.
Now the college will have to come up with ways to fill the void as the Canadian Culinary Championships, which drew chefs from across Canada to compete, has moved to Ottawa.
Allan Coyle, director of community affairs with Okanagan College, has been involved with the Canadian Culinary Championships prior to its Kelowna competitions. Each year, students have played an important role in the championships, observing and helping chefs with their final dishes.
The news that the championships would be moving out of Kelowna, didn’t come as shock to Coyle, as changes with the organizers suggested it was coming, he said.
“Are we a little disappointed? Yeah, because it was such a great event and it helped showcased Kelowna. It helped showcase our culinary arts program,” Coyle said.
“The advantage for us was really the valued added for the students. It hasn’t been a formal part of their curriculum, but we’ve been able to bring students together with some of Canada’s best chefs. I saw several students become inspired by what they experienced over the course of that weekend and it was also an eye-opener.”
It was an exceptional challenge for students to watch and participate in, he said.
“Seeing it move on and change, I think the community, our culinary arts instructors, our students were the force that helped keep things here as long as we were able to, but changes in the affiliation of the organizers… it was time for change,” Coyle said. “Do I wish it was here forever? I would have said yes but that would have been naive to think it would stay here forever.”
After five years of the championships in the Okanagan, communities started to ask about hosting the championships at other events, which Coyle saw as a precursor to the move.
The silver lining is that students and Okanagan chefs will have the ability to participate in the competition, as previously there wasn’t a lot of opportunity with a new regional leg of Canada’s Great Kitchen Party, one of 12 Canadian cities to stage the culinary competition.
The Kelowna regional leg will be held Friday, Nov. 15, at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort. Six local chefs from Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley region will go head-to-head for a spot at the Canadian Culinary Championships, according to a Canada’s Great Kitchen Party news release.
Co-founder Karen Blair, of Canada’s Great Kitchen Party, said the new location will be more central for chefs on the East Coast.
She said the original plan was to have the championships in Kelowna for three years but ended up staying for nine. With the rebrand of the Gold Medal Plates to Canada’s Great Kitchen Party, there was an opportunity to look at a more central location, she said.
“Also it was time to just freshen it up. We moved Victoria events to Vancouver,” she said. “The local people will be able to cheer on a local chef.”
If there’s strong support for the Kelowna event, and it’s successful then it will continue, she said.
The Canadian Culinary Championships will be held for the next three years in Ottawa.
“The format they’re suggesting now will allow more restauranteurs within the region to compete and perhaps go forward and develop their capacity,” Coyle said.
There will still be a chance for students to connect with restauranteurs, as the championships have allowed students to build relationships.
Lisanne Ballantyne, CEO with Tourism Kelowna, said the event drew roughly 200 out-of-town guests, but that was including the chefs.
“Any kind of event that is culinary in nature that can help feed our local chefs to an international stage is a great legacy,” she said.
“We’re still a culinary city and a foodie city and this supports it.”