Vancouver Community College baking and pastry-arts graduate Clarissa Roque did something amazing in May at the 2019 Skills Canada National Competition in Halifax.
She created seven different pastries over a 14-hour period in two days, wowing the judges and winning a gold medal in her category.
This has enabled her to advance to the WorldSkills Competition in August in Kazan, Russia.
But that wasn’t the only VCC–related accomplishment in Halifax. One of its recent culinary-arts grads, Leah Patitucci, also won a gold medal in her category.
This means that for the first time, one school—Vancouver Community College—has Canadian bragging rights in both of these categories for the upcoming global event. It takes place every two years and attracts competitors from more than 60 countries.
VCC’s dean of hospitality, food studies and applied business, Dennis Innes, told the Straight by phone that the success of the students doesn’t reflect only the quality of the culinary and baking and pastry-arts programs. It’s also a testament to the commitment and dedication of the two former VCC students.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Innes declared. “They really have to want to do it.”
He pointed out that Roque and Patitucci were both enrolled in high-school programs created in partnership with VCC. These programs provide an opportunity to earn academic and trades-training credits before going to college.
“Then they came to study with us,” Innes said.
Innes is on the board of Skills Canada B.C. and will be in Kazan for the WorldSkills Competition. But this is not the only chance for students and recent grads to demonstrate their mettle. According to Innes, they’ve competed for the national Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship and in the Culinary Olympics.
“In both the culinary and baking programs, we have our own internal top-student competition,” he added.
VCC has the largest culinary arts and baking and pastry-arts programs in the province. Because it receives funding from Industry Training Authority B.C., VCC is more affordable for students than other schools that don’t have this affiliation.
There are two streams in the baking and pastry-arts program. In one, students learn about artisan baking (including breads), and in the other the focus is on pastry arts. There’s an opportunity to obtain Red Seal certification through an apprenticeship.
In the culinary-arts program, students learn foundational skills before advancing to learn how to become a professional cook. This program also offers an opportunity to become a Red Seal–certified chef.
Innes emphasized that students receive real-world experience on campus with up-to-date equipment in five baking labs and 12 kitchens. All faculty members have Red Seal certification and industry experience. And students’ products
are sold in a cafeteria and fine-dining restaurant, providing them with consumer feedback.
“That’s really one of the strengths of our program, the combination of skills versus production, because we need a balance of both,” Innes said. “Students come out ready to work.”