Q: What is your name?
A: Chef Robert Walker
Q: What did you take at OC/OUC? What years did you attend? What campus did you attend?
A: I graduate from the Culinary Arts Certificate program at Okanagan University College in 2001.
Q: Why did you choose your program at OC?
A: I grew up in the Kootenays not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. But I always loved food. In the back of my head was this question, “How do I become a chef?” I had my eye on the Okanagan Valley so making the decision to come to Okanagan College was easy. The Okanagan is full of so much bounty. It really is a mecca for cooks since we’re surrounded by wineries, orchards, farmers and other so many other purveyors.
Q: When did you know you had found your discipline?
A: I had a fast-track start to my career as a chef as I was getting started. I spent a few months of the Culinary Arts program learning how peel carrots and dice things, but things sped up as I began working with Chef Dave Ryan. I worked for him over the winter while he trained for the Culinary Olympics. That experience opened a whole new world for me. And because of that connection, I got started on my apprenticeship and the next steps in my career. It pushed me to expand my horizons and I spent time working at the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Vancouver.
Q: What was one of your most meaningful memories during your time at OC?
A: The instructors are what stood out to me – it was a really good team. They really nurtured me along. Even while I was in Vancouver, I came back to OUC each year to complete my apprenticeship training.
Q: What does farm to table mean to you?
A: Knowing where my food comes from has always been a passion of mine. Some people say that chefs are hardworking, but I always think that farmers are way harder workers. I want to appreciate and showcase their hard work in the food that I make. I try to be as minimalistic as possible, using what is in season, locally grown and sustainable.
Q: Are there any awards, achievements or activities that you would like to highlight?
A: My time with Chef Dave Ryan also inspired my interest in competitive cooking. I’ve been an active competitor in the culinary world and been involved with many events: two gold medals in the Western Canadian Culinary Arts Festival; honorable mentions in both the B.C. Place Food Service Expo, and Vancouver City-TV’s Master Chef Competition; first place in Sysco Chefs black box competition; participation the Canadian Culinary Championship Gold Medal Plates; represented the Okanagan in the Great Canadian Plates regional finals.
Q: What advice would you pass on to current/future students?
A: Your work ethic is everything. Do good work, keep your head down, listen to people who have come before you. Really be a sponge. Chefs are natural teachers, even in a restaurant setting, Pick their brain. Show up early, leave late, fit in extracurricular things where you can. Chefs will spill their secrets if they know you are interested in learning.
Q: Where are you the happiest?
A: You’d find me camping anywhere in the Okanagan. I’d be there with my kids, creating food over an open fire to enjoy together.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: Okanagan College has a special place in my heart. It has been a big part of my life for many years and I hope it will continue to be a part of the community for many more.
Culinary and Pastry Arts
Grow your culinary career in the heart of the Okanagan Valley. Programs focus on a farm-to-table approach, exploring fresh local products. Commercial kitchen spaces allow students to learn the latest techniques from Red Seal-certified chef instructors.
Since 2002, Okanagan College has been conferring awards upon graduates who contribute to their communities and industries in countless ways. We are proud of the impact our alumni have locally, nationally and internationally. The Alumni awards are an opportunity to honour the extraordinary contributions and recognize the positive impact that our graduates have in improving the lives of those around them.