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A former Ontario boy who has developed a true taste for the Okanagan is being awarded the 2012 Young Alumni Award by the Okanagan College Alumni Association.
“I am so thrilled I was chosen – I still can’t believe it,” said Chef Jonathan Garratt, who completed his Professional Cooking apprenticeship program at Okanagan College and recently obtained his Red Seal.
Garratt will be receiving the Okanagan College Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Award at the College’s Kelowna campus on Friday, Oct. 5.
Garratt came to prominence earlier this year when he organized more than 80 junior chef volunteers to assist in the Canadian Culinary Association’s 2012 Gold Medal Plates Competition held, in part, at Okanagan College.
Shortly afterwards, he was named one of two young chef ambassadors with the World Association of Chefs Society (WACS). And it was only a few years ago that he had athletes eating up what he dished out at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Kara Kazimer, president of the Okanagan College Alumni Association, said Garratt exemplifies the Okanagan College student.
“Learning what Jon has done in such a short time is inspiring for both his fellow alumni and students who attend Okanagan College today,” Kazimer said. “He just proves that age truly is no barrier to success.”
Garratt, who had some college training when he arrived here from Ontario, said it was meeting Instructor Geoffrey Couper that convinced him to complete his formal training at Okanagan College.
“Geoffrey is definitely a world class instructor,” said Garratt, now 30. “He talked to us about the localness of the industry and about what we can do here every day in the Okanagan.”
Garratt has worked his way through a who’s who of Kelowna restaurants cooking in the kitchens of Old Vines, Bonfire Grill, Cabana Grille, and Waterfront. In 2008 he became the junior president of the Okanagan Chefs Association, and in 2009 became the Western Junior rep with the Canadian Culinary Federation.
Garratt’s efforts have earned him praise not only from those in the Okanagan, but also from celebrated Canadian Chef Michael Smith who led the brigade of chefs who cooked 12,000 meals daily for athletes at the Vancouver Olympics.
“He has earned my respect under fire,” Smith wrote in a letter supporting Garratt’s nomination as a WACS junior chef ambassador.
Garratt is now plying his trade at the Cactus Club while honing his business skills at Whisk Cake Company, which he owns with his fiancée.
“What I learned at Okanagan College was that you need to know how to cook, but you also need the business smarts,” Garratt said. “You need to know the real numbers and facets of the business, all while bringing in the local aspect as well.”
The Young Alumni Award is presented to former students who are 35 years or younger. Past recipients have included spoken word poet Shane Koyczan, and co-owners of Prestige Collision Mark and Todd Regier.