Samuel Robertson Technical student Carmen-rosa Bilodeau is busy sharpening her culinary repertoire for the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) in Edmonton from June 4-5.
With the clock ticking and judges scrutinizing every ingredient and cooking technique, the young chef will be required to prepare, among other things, a three-course meal in three and a half hours.
For the past three weeks, she’s been putting in extra kitchen practise time with chef Mike Steele, instructor of SRT’s Culinary Program.
“We put her in all the types of scenarios that could occur so she’s prepared,” he said.
Steele said he’s also switching practise kitchens in the lead-up to the nationals so she doesn’t get too comfortable in one cooking environment. “That’s because when we arrive in Edmonton she has to jump right onto a different kitchen floor and start cooking. The amount of food they have to produce in a short amount of time is a challenge for any skill level, especially at the secondary level.”
To qualify for nationals, Bilodeau first earned culinary victories at the regional and provincial level. Her interest in cooking was sparked last summer when she got a job as an apprentice inside the kitchen at SwanesetBay Resort & Country Club. “[That] really inspired me to take this program. Then I started loving it,” said Bilodeau.
Steele, who graduated from Garibaldi Senior Secondary with Culinary Arts honours 30 years ago this June, says Bilodeau is a natural in the kitchen.
“Not everyone can have cooking come naturally; for Carmen it does come naturally. She’s dedicated, she’s got kitchen poise. She can overcome most circumstances in the kitchen, and that’s one of those characteristics in the kitchen that makes not only a good cook but a great chef,” said Steele.
With just a few days to go before they fly to Edmonton, Bilodeau has just a few practise sessions left before she’ll be cooking for the judges in front of a large audience.
“I’m more excited (than nervous) about the experience and just want to be in the moment,” she said.
Bilodeau is the first Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District culinary student to reach the nationals. National winners have a chance to join Team Canada for the 2019 WorldSkills in Kazan, Russia.
When she graduates, Bilodeau plans to pursue a culinary career. “I want to use it as something you can travel with because when you get your Red Seal you can go anywhere.”