How sweet it is: Culinary Arts students celebrate Commencement in person
This year, Okanagan College Culinary Arts students can savour success together, during the first in-person Summer Commencement ceremony held in two years.
OC Trades and Apprenticeship students completing foundation, diploma and apprenticeship level programs will cross the stage Thursday, June 9 at Okanagan College.
Trades and Apprenticeship programs were among those especially challenged by the impacts of the pandemic. Food services on campus were greatly reduced, which meant that unlike other years, the Culinary Arts students couldn’t work in the Infusions Restaurant, the student-run kitchen.
But Culinary Arts Certificate student Jessica Madinabeitia says that didn’t stop Okanagan College from finding a way for students to develop their skills.
“The College came up with a new program where we could gain that practical experience by making meals for students facing food insecurity called OC Serves Up. That was cool, we got to show off whatever we were learning and provide it to students for free,” explains Madinabeitia.
Other unique opportunities were provided to the Culinary students, including partnering with produce supplier company, Farm Bound. Students crafted recipes for the OC Inspiration Box, which came with fully portioned ingredients delivered right to your door. The students made how-to videos showcasing the steps needed to prepare each dish and shared a few culinary techniques as well.
Madinabeitia considers working on the project to have been a valuable experience that she did not expect in her Culinary Arts journey – in addition to being able to work with instructors and mentors.
“A highlight from my time at OC is that I had a female chef, Kelsey Oudendag, as one of my instructors. That was very encouraging,” explains Madinabeitia. “Being a woman in this industry is hard because it is primarily male. You see a chef and it’s a man. So that was encouraging because she is a red-seal Chef and also an instructor, so that meant of course I could do it.”
Commencement ceremonies are being held through June, and are the first time OC President Neil Fassina congratulates graduands in-person, since taking the helm in 2021.
“These students have engaged in meaningful life-long educational opportunities during an incredible time in history. As graduates, they will bring the skills and knowledge they have learned at Okanagan College forward to transform their careers and inspire our communities throughout the region and beyond,” says Dr. Neil Fassina, Okanagan College President. “It is an honour to celebrate our graduates with their loved ones for my first in-person Trades Commencement ceremony.”
For Madinabeitia, she is now looking to leverage her Business Administration studies into a career.
“My goal is to gain experience cooking on the kitchen line because, in the future, I would like to be a sous-chef. I don’t want the stress of being the head chef. I want to support the head chef because their success is my success,” says Madinabeitia. “There’s so much more to being a sous-chef than making schedules and buying supplies, you cover all the areas in the kitchen, too.”
The on-the-job work experience that is part of the Culinary Arts program gave Madinabeitia a foot in the door of kitchens she is now excited to join.
“I needed to do a co-op as part of my program and found a starting position at Lake Breeze Vineyard preparing salads and desserts under the wing of Chef Mark Ashton. When I finished the season, he offered me to come back in a full-time position. I am now doing my second season with him and he is also training me in areas on the kitchen line, so I am cooking more. I was also recently offered a job at Hillside Winery on the line so I am going to be finishing one job and maybe have a shot of espresso before heading to the next,” says Madinabeitia.
While being a sous-chef is her goal, she wants to remain open to change. Even for the possibility of one day opening her own Mexican fusion restaurant.
The Trades and Apprenticeship Commencement ceremony will be held on Thursday, June 9 at the Kelowna campus. For more information, visit the Convocaiton and Commencement webpage.
Tags: Culinary Arts, Trades, Convocation
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