Entrepreneurial chef chooses VCC on path from family cooking to Red Seal Apprentice

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      (This story is sponsored by the .)

      Which women in your life have inspired your tastes and talents? Like many Canadians, alumna Katherine Aguilar remembers her mother and grandmother as the ones who passed on the cultural recipes and flavours that brought family together around the table.

      Today, as a professional cook, Katherine continues to hold these values close as she connects food and people in her own unique and essential career.

      Though she’d always had a passion for cooking, when Katherine came to Canada from the Philippines more than 20 years ago, her focus was learning English and making it through high school. “It was hard for me to adapt,” she remembers.

      After high school, on the advice of her parents, Katherine started a career as a pharmacy technologist. “I survived,” she says about her job, “but I mostly looked forward to weekends in the kitchen with family.”

      Soon, Katherine joined her grandmother in making and selling the family’s famous lumpia to make extra money. With secret family recipes in hand, she eventually opened a catering business. serves traditional Filipino snacks and meals at community events.

      At the same time, Katherine started a job as a dietary aide at a long-term care home in Abbotsford, but her talents did not go unnoticed, and she soon started cooking full meals in the kitchen.

      Between cooking full-time for seniors, running a catering business, and opening a Filipino fusion food stall () at the Richmond Night Market, Katherine decided in 2019 to pursue formal culinary training and credentials.

      “It was scary at first,” she says about starting VCC’s after 15 years of working. “But now, I felt like a teenager again. I never knew learning could be so fun and amazing.”

      After completing , Katherine won VCC’s Santiago Cuyguan Award of Excellence, recognizing her dedication to cooking and openness to diverse culinary influences.

      In 2021, with her catering business and food stall temporarily closed due the pandemic, Katherine decided it was the perfect time to complete Level 3 of . This was the final stage of trades training before challenging the Red Seal examination. “I’m so glad I did it,” she shares. “It refreshed my memory. It was the right time.”