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THE ENTERTAINING ISSUE - November December Issue 2018

Going through SAIT’s Professional Cooking Diploma Program

by Harsimran Chahal

"I think that if all kids aspire to reach a point where they could feed themselves and a few of their friends, this would be good for the world, surely. – Anthony Bourdain"

The Professional Cooking diploma provided by SAIT is considered one of the best programs in Canada, due to it teaching students to master the craft of the culinary. The program includes a hands-on training system set up by world-renowned chefs, including Michael Dekker and Michael Allemeier.

The PCK (an acronym for the two-year Professional Cooking Program) program is not simply for those who merely aspire to be chefs. It’s for culinary enthusiasts such as myself, who wish to comprehend and execute the different techniques and teachings that are needed in order to be part of the culinary industry. This program introduced me to many job opportunities within the industry, such as pâtissière, event planner, sommelier, and food stylist. I’ve been provided with the tools I need in order to share my thoughts in a critical manner within the industry.

I was 17 years old when I first started the PCK program. I didn’t know much about the culinary industry; however, I understood that in order to start my career as a food editor/critic, SAIT would be an amazing first step. I then acquainted myself with many different chefs from different ethnic backgrounds. In addition to sharing their techniques with me, they shared stories of their own paths to success.

When I first applied to the SAIT culinary program, I expected to gain real-life industry experience, with a broad knowledge of different culinary trades, which I received along with so much more. I met teachers who’ve become friends, who continue to guide me in the right direction as an aspiring food critic. SAIT provided me with the opportunity to communicate and connect with culinary professionals who taught, disciplined, and mentored me. I was introduced to each of these instructors within a small class, which allowed me to connect and understand the instructors, a perfect building block that helped me achieve success.

Chef Michael Dekker, the previous executive chef at Rouge, was one of the many instructors who wished deeply for the success of his students. I recall having a one-on-one conversation with him on the last day of lunch à la carte. He asked me what I wanted to do after culinary and if I wished to pursue a career as a chef. Instructors like chef Dekker are one of the many reasons the PCK program at SAIT excels in ensuring the success of its students.

I still remember the moment I stepped through the kitchen doors in my chef whites. I entered a classroom of very ambitious people, all with unique objectives. The atmosphere that SAIT provided, especially the hospitality and tourism program, was beyond sensational. I grasped an ample amount of the knowledge that I believe is essential for a future cook. I was introduced to the five mother sauces, butchery, fundamental cooking techniques, and so much more. My experience was heightened the moment I met my classmates – we prevailed together and approached each obstacle with open minds.

PCK challenged me every day, while simultaneously turning each obstacle into an opportunity to learn and educate myself about each new topic. I was confident I would gain a job during or after my program because SAIT provided me with all of the opportunities to do so – its grad employment rate is standing at 89%. SAIT students such as myself are given the chance to attend a bi-annual Career Direction Fair that attracts more than 100+ employers from some of the largest Canadian companies. This job fair not only allowed me to widen my network and connect with leading professionals, but helped me secure a job in the industry.

I got my first real taste of a true kitchen environment through the PCK program. I was instructed in a variety of different live classroom settings, such as the incredible Highwood Dining Room, the 4 Nine kitchen, the downtown culinary campus, and the newly developed Tastemarket. This not only taught me how to act in front of watchful eyes, but also how to interact with and understand the customers in order to satisfy them as a cook.

I did not just gain lifelong instructors, or remarkable chefs as friends, or a certificate showing my dedication and hard work during these two years. I gained skills that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Patience, a sense of urgency, attention to detail, cleanliness, and multitasking are just some of the many beneficial traits that I have gained. My passion was elevated and my path became much more clear.

I stood in my cap and gown during graduation, facing the instructors that mentored and guided me, and the students who started out as strangers but soon turned into “family.” At that moment, I understood exactly how lucky I was to have been introduced to an amazing facility that put my education first. I am thankful to my classmates for encouraging and supporting me, for the teachers who turned into role models, and a unique program that gave me the opportunity to follow my dream.

Read entire article in the digital issue of City Palate.