For six weeks, some lucky residents in Cambridge Bay are enjoying fine dining courtesy of students in the culinary arts program.

Janielle VandenBrink displays an on-the-land themed cake, baked as part of the culinary arts program in Cambridge Bay.
photo courtesy of Andy Poisson

The seven cooks in training are in the final phase of their one-year certificate course. In what’s known as the chef’s table, the students take turns as cooks and servers.

They have been preparing and serving colourful and spicy lunches – free of charge – for eight people each weekday at the community learning centre. The menu options include entrees of pan-fried trout, beef stir fry, barbecued back ribs and coq au vin. There are also appetizers like Asian salad and deep-fried wontons. The meals also include dessert.

The students will make fresh pasta for Italian cuisine next.

“It’s a restaurant concept with an a-la-carte menu,” said chef Andy Poisson, the program instructor, who evaluates his students based on the taste of the meals, the presentation of the food, their teamwork in the kitchen, their cleanliness, and their professionalism and friendliness toward their lunch guests.

Four of the seven students have already found part-time work, Poisson noted.
“Those places are guaranteed to take them on full-time afterwards,” he said, adding that the first semester of the program focused on cooking in camp and institutional settings while the second half has put emphasis on dressing up meals for more of a high-end restaurant experience.

“So then they can pick and choose where they want to go,” said Poisson.

Student Amanda Ruben said planning and preparation are key components to successful dining.

“You have to get everything ready for the next day and make sure you have all your ingredients ready, and go through the checklist,” she said.

Fellow student Jean Kaniak said it is also important to use the proper measurements and not to overcook the food.

Ruben has fallen in love with Chinese stir fry, which she has made at home as well. It consists of beef, Chinese noodles, red and green peppers and onions. The Philly steak is delicious, too, she added.

Kaniak prefers the pork dishes. She has made some of the course’s stews and apple fritter recipes at home, which she and her family enjoyed, she said.

Kaniak has previous experience working as a dishwasher at the Kitnuna bunkhouse and she plans to return to that same workplace with her new culinary skills. She’s also considering pursuing her red-seal chef designation in the future, she added.

Ruben took the camp cook program through Nunavut Arctic College several years ago and subsequently worked as a cook’s helper in Taloyoak for a while.

She said she’s glad she got involved in the culinary arts program.

“It’s a lot of fun. We learn something new every day,” she said.

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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