For as long as she can remember, Jennilee Vaneltsi always wanted to be on a cooking show.
“One of my favourite channels on my dish at home is the food network,” she said. “I told myself one of these days I would be on there. So I kind have gotten it off my bucket list.”
Now, her dream is becoming reality as the Fort McPherson cook is set to compete on the Food Network’s Wall of Chefs Feb. 10, where she and five other cooks from around Canada will engage in a cook-off with several rows of the finest cooks in Canada.
After each round, one of the competitor chefs is eliminated and the last one standing against the ‘wall’ is awarded $10,000.
“I’m super excited — it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I didn’t think I would even make the cut for it, I was going to back out at the last minute. But I decided to give it a try and I made the cut and got to fly down to Toronto to do a shoot.
“I would add that anyone who would want to be on a show like this should go for it. If I can be picked out of a million applicants, anyone is capable of doing it. You only live once; you may as well step out of your boundaries and try something new.”
Cooking is in Vaneltsi’s blood. As long as she has been able to, she’s been cooking something. Over time, she has expanded her craft and keeps challenging herself, starting with traditional cooking of wild game and moving to learning to cook Chinese cuisine and of course lots of baking.
For her, cooking is both a good stress reliever and a way to express herself, but also a way to give back to the community. Even though she’s putting her cooking up on display on national television, Vaneltsi said she wanted to use her airtime to draw attention to the issues facing her hometown.
“I want to make awareness for protecting the porcupine caribou herd, one of our main sources of food up here in the north,” she said. “Also to protect the Peel River Watershed, which runs along my community.
“We have one of the most pristine water sources in the world and we want to protect it.”
She made a special shout-out to her children, Jenelle, J’Lyn and Jathana, for both giving her someone to cook for and keep in practice, but also for her inspiration.
“Thank you to all my supporters who love my cooking, especially my three children,” she said. “These three have kept me going. They’re the ones that make me reach my goals. I want to inspire them and show them they can make goals for themselves and reach them, they just have to try.
“Just take a chance, you never know.”
Regardless of how well she does on the show, Vaneltsi said she was happy to have gotten to fill an entry on her bucket-list. Her next big dream?
“I really want to open up something in my community. It’s a work in process, but hopefully I’ll get there soon,” she said. “It’s my life goal to open something at home.”
She competes Feb. 10 on the Food Network.