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Culinary Arts open house demonstrates ripe opportunities for Okanagan chefs
Okanagan College Media Release

Jenna Pillon May 2015Imagine landing your dream job at the age of 25. Chef Jenna Pillon has done just that and was able to do it without leaving the Okanagan Valley. 

Pillon is settling into her second year at the helm of one of the South Okanagan’s most esteemed winery restaurants, Hester Creek’s Terrafina in Oliver, and is savouring every minute of it. 

Her culinary career took off rather quickly once she completed her Professional Cook Level 3 Apprenticeship at Okanagan College in 2011. After a two-month stint as a sous-chef, she was promoted to Restaurant Chef at Terrafina.

“I am where I’d hoped to be in five years,” she says. “I’ve come a long way in a short period of time and I’m still working on what’s next.” 

Long before she was creating beautiful dishes at Terrafina, cooking formed a significant part of her life. Pillon grew up cooking at home in Salmon Arm with her family but it wasn’t until she got her first job in a kitchen at a pub in her hometown at the age of 16 that the idea of cooking professionally became a real interest.  

“I realized the excitement of cooking on a line was fantastic and decided to pursue it more,” said Pillon. 

And pursue it she did. After completing her Professional Cook Level 1, she became an apprentice chef at Manteo Restaurant in Kelowna under renowned Chef Bernard Casavant, who is now the Culinary Manager at Okanagan College. She then successfully challenged the Professional Cook Level 2 exams and entered the six-week Level 3 apprenticeship program at Okanagan College. 

For Pillon, the best part of the Culinary Arts program at Okanagan College was the opportunity for hands-on learning. 

“Learning how to process local wild boar and venison in class was fantastic,” she said. “The College’s instructors are very knowledgeable. They helped me so much with wine knowledge, competition practice and constructive criticism. They try to make you the best cook you can be.”

The College is opening up its kitchen doors on the evening of Thursday, May 14, from 7:30-8:30 p.m., and is inviting anyone interested in pursuing a career in Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts or Culinary Management to explore the options for training for a dynamic career. 

“Cooking is a craft that takes true passion and it can be intimidating for the average person who hasn’t had any professional training,” explained Chef Casavant. “The truth is, with the right instruction and opportunities, anyone with that passion can turn it into a career with endless possibilities.”

Anyone interested in attending the free Culinary Arts open house can contact Chef Geoffrey Couper at gcouper@okanagan.bc.ca to register.