Imagine being given three hours to create a dish that must be presented to two judges with highly trained palates and not knowing what the secret ingredient is. That's exactly what faced 17-year-old Sharie Taylor at the Regional Skills Canada competition for culinary arts recently.
The event was held in the home economics lab at a Campbell River high school, and even though Sharie is accustomed to using the professional kitchen at Brooks Secondary School as a dual-credit culinary arts student, she prepared for the difference by spending hours practicing her dishes and plating skills in the school's home economics lab.
Cheered on by her mom, who had been in the culinary arts training program two years ago, Sharie was unfazed when she heard the secret ingredient: fennel. She said she felt calm at the beginning, writing out a menu within two minutes. "I felt like I was in a movie. I tuned out all the other competitors at first and focused on my dishes and being clean with my prep."
Sharie prepared an appetizer of ratatouille in a fennel bowl, a main dish of salmon with a red pepper sauce, rice pilaf and three vegetable dishes, one more than the requirement.
When the winners were announced, Sharie picked up the gold medal. "I texted Xavier] right away." [Xavier Bauby instructs the culinary arts dual-credit in Powell River). Xavier is proud of his student. "I picked her because she was the best fit for that competition. She stands out."
Sharie plans to further her culinary training when she attends the second year of the diploma program at VIU in Nanaimo. "I'd like to get my red seal, but I would love to get a medical degree. Cooking will be my backup to pay for my schooling."
Bauby accompanied another student, Michelle Botelho, to the BC Skills competition in Abbotsford recently. Braced to prepare four hors d'oeuvres, two desserts and a sauce, she had no idea of the secret ingredient ahead of time. "All the way to Abbotsford, we were guessing at what it was going to be," Michelle said. "We assumed it would be meat. We joked that it would be crocodile or kangaroo."
"When grapefruit was announced as the secret ingredient, you should have seen her face," said Bauby.
Not understanding that she could have used the ingredient just as a garnish, Michelle chose to highlight it. "I put it everywhere. I was terrified I had to think differently than everything I had practiced. I was thrilled to take home the silver medal."
Bauby emphasized the high value of the second-place finish. "It was a tight race of points. Michelle does so well under pressure." Vancouver Community College collected gold, with VIU Powell River earning silver and the Nanaimo campus rounding out to get the bronze prize. Xavier states, “In culinary work it’s important for students to make contacts for potential work. Michelle’s immediate goal is to get an apprenticeship this summer in Vancouver—she will achieve that.”