Shannah holding a fish

Cooking up success

July 7, 2024

From Classroom to Career: Shannah Pogline

Growing up in a family of self-taught women cooks, Shannah Pogline was inspired to explore cooking further and enrolled in VIU’s Culinary Arts program. Since graduating in 1999, Shannah has worked in various roles from fine dining, restaurants and catering to meal prepping and schools.

She’s also published a how-to book: Feed the Hungry – How to Set Up and Run a Successful Meal Program. When she started a breakfast food program in her children’s school, she found there wasn’t much literature to guide people in the process, so she wrote a book.

Shannah finds joy in the creativity of cooking.

“As an artistic person, I love making new creations for the palate – combining texture, taste and visual attraction,” she says. “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself and what better way to create than to start with what gives us life and health – the fuel for our bodies.”

We caught up with Shannah to learn more about her book and what’s next for her.

Tell us a bit about your experience at VIU and in your program.

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when signing up to take the program because I just did it on a whim as I wanted to learn how to cook. I had just moved to Nanaimo and wanted to attend a school nearby. So, when I started my program, the thing I loved the most was the fact that each teacher taught a different area of cooking. The diversity in what they knew and the combination of their experiences and tricks of the trade helped me throughout my career as a chef.

Were there any unexpected benefits you discovered after becoming a student?

Learning to cook with proper skills has saved me a ton of money in my home budget! By knowing how to make even simple items like tarter and cocktail sauce and by learning how to cook a variety of everything, my family ate very healthy meals like kings and queens when we were on a small budget. Cooking is a job you can do anywhere and there always seem to be jobs available. Restaurants are always looking for cooks, especially ones with a culinary education.

How did your program prepare you for what you’re doing now?

The Culinary Arts program is impressive on a resumé. I have worked in pretty much all styles of cooking. I have worked in the film industry, fine dining, bakeries, pubs, fisheries, senior’s homes, mental institutions, golf courses, casinos, catering, meal prepping, schools and other industries.

What’s next for you?

I just had spinal surgery in January and it has been a slow recovery thus far. Currently, I am working a few days a week cooking at a local golf course to get back into the flow of work and to strengthen my body. FYI – free golf is one of the perks of working at a golf course. My husband and I have plans to start our own culinary farm-to-table experience on our five-acre property in Washington State. We will combine local farm products as well as the items we grow on our land into an experience unlike any other.

What are you most proud of since completing your program at VIU?

As a mom of four boys, I had an experience that gave me a new awareness of the hunger epidemic Canada, and the world, is going through. I found out that more and more children at my boys’ schools were being sent to school with no lunches, some also arriving without having breakfast. I started a breakfast food program in my children’s school. I brought in funding, worked with the principal to put in a kitchen, created a menu plan, organized the volunteers and ran the program. Word got out and I was asked to help several other schools either start or improve their breakfast programs.

Since then I have worked with many schools, churches and community centres to help them implement community food programs. I had great difficulty finding material to help the average person who would like to start this type of food program with no culinary experience, so I wrote Feed the Hungry – How to Set Up and Run a Successful Meal Program.

What advice would you give VIU students following a similar trajectory as yourself?

Even if you don't continue with cooking as a long-term career, you will never regret taking this program! This program will teach you skills you will always use throughout your whole life. It’s a win-win. There will always be a job for you, everyone has to eat!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Even after cooking for more than 24 years, I’m still learning new things at new jobs. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Food ticket order modifications are not a big deal, lol. People will always be impressed and love the fact that you are a “chef,” and they will take great pride in knowing a chef and will introduce you that way. It will happen a lot! After you graduate from culinary school you will be an instant expert to everyone you encounter on all aspects of cooking! This can be a wonderful thing, as it is true when they say, “The way to the heart is through the stomach!”

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