Cook, Holiday Inn, St. John’s
I was born/grew up in: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I now live in: St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.
I completed my training/education at: I completed the Commercial Cooking program at the College of the North Atlantic, Prince Philip Drive campus.
Describe what you do at work.
At the start of my shift, I prepare the kitchen line with the food and tools necessary for a successful service. I do the preparation for foods that will be needed for banquets. I ensure that everything is ready to go out at the scheduled time. This is important because if things are not ready it will disrupt the food service.
As part of the preparation, math skills are very important. I need to make sure that every portion is identical. In order to do that I use tools such as scales and portion scoops. Food safety is a central part of my job. Good sanitation helps prevent food-borne illnesses. Understanding temperatures both Fahrenheit and Celsius (and their conversions) ensures that bacteria are eliminated for the customer's safety.
As part of my job I also have to understand how acids and bases affect coloration of fruits, vegetables, and meats. This is important because the food being served has to be visually-appealing to the customer. There is truth to the cliché that “you eat with your eyes first”! I also like to explore the chemistry of flavours and how they interact with the palate.
As a cook I work as part of a team, and it is important that everyone is focused and on-task. A kitchen can be a dangerous place with heavy pots and pans, sharp knives, and high temperatures, so it is extremely important for my team to look out for one another.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect peoples lives?
My career is relevant because people will always need to eat (safely)! I love seeing the look on people's faces as they enjoy my food. There are endless opportunities to learn and experiment in the cooking industry and I'm always looking for the next chance to improve my skills.
What motivates you in your career?
I live for the rush of service time! Coping with pressure in a high-intensity situation is not always easy, but I fit right in. One of the things that I enjoy the most about being a cook is the chemistry of the team and how we are all working towards one goal: customer satisfaction. Experimentation is what keeps me passionate about what I do; introducing different ingredients into classical dishes keeps things interesting. I love knowing that I can make people happy with the food that I cook, and as a cook, I'll never work a day in my life.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
When I was in high school, I was just concentrating on getting it done. I didn't really think about the future or what I wanted to do. I was never really good in school. Once I got to college, I spent many years trying to find my career path. I took lots of time off to learn about myself and what makes me tick. I realized then that I really loved cooking. I found my happy place in the kitchen. It's been smooth sailing since then.
To get to this point, I moved to Newfoundland and Labrador and pursued a diploma in Commercial Cooking at the College of the North Atlantic. I remember in college, my macroeconomics teacher said, "work for the money and enjoy your retirement." I’m not sure who told her that but it is simply not true. The money will come eventually – you need to first enjoy your job, and you will enjoy life. My biggest yet very modest influence to pursuing cooking is my grandmother, whom I've spent time in the kitchen with since I was very young. My earliest memories are of time spent in my grandmother's kitchen.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work, I like to unwind by going for a hike or walk in the woods. I enjoy visiting different restaurants and seeing what they have to offer.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Get in your kitchen and cook! It’s the only way to really know if you like cooking.