On Nov. 17 at 6 p.m., get ready to feast.
The EMCS culinary arts program is putting on its annual buffet, with this year’s star entree being a spiced and brined roast turkey with chanterelle mushroom, dried apricot and cornbread stuffing. Other options are of course available, but the real story is a new addition to the lineup, or rather, two, said culinary arts teacher Pia Carroll.
“We’ve got two young men that graduated last year that are back,” said Carroll, who has been teaching and also been a chef with the Sooke Harbour House for 15 years.
Gavin Boechler and Jonathan Evans, both 18, are in the kitchen at the high school again as part of a pilot semester-long program offered by the Camosun College Professional Cook Program. Called “E-PPRENTICE,” the duo work online for the theory portion of their program, and are at the high school every day making salads, soups, pastries, and slew of other dishes as part of their practical.
“It’s a brilliant course, it offers students the possibility of getting their level PC1 (professional cook 1 certification) instead of doing it at a job.”
In the past, Boechler and Evans would have had to find a restaurant to take them on as apprentices, which isn’t always easy given the limited number of eateries in town. That might not have been as difficult for Evans, however, who has been in the industry since he was a child.
“I worked at the Sooke 2 for 1 Pizza when i was 11,” said Evans, a job his older sister helped him get. He has also been working at Mom’s Cafe for the last four years.
Boechler had aspirations of being an actor before taking a foods class at Edward Milne.
“I found out it’s lots of fun,” said the tall freshman resembling a football player in a chef’s uniform. The two cooks, who have been friends since their secondary school days, hope to finish the Camosun program and one day open a catering business in Thailand after getting some experience.
The pair aren’t the only ones doing all the cooking for the buffet, which Carroll called a “showcase of talents” for the students in the culinary arts program at the high school. Run by Carroll and another practicing instructor from the harbour house, Marion French, the young aspiring chefs are prepare all the food. It’s nothing new, since they do it on a daily basis making meals for the cafeteria.
The facility the students work in looks very professional, and actually possesses a commercial kitchen license from the Vancouver Island Health Authority. There, along with independent private chef Jason MacIsaac, the group will create the extensive buffet menu that includes roasted squash soup or tomato and fennel broth with local mussels to start. Other entrees besides the turkey are a rolled pork loin roast, or vegetarian wild mushrooms with smoked tofu crepe bundles. The fully-stocked buffet table will have everything from local shrimp and crab to smoked tuna sushi. Finally, dessert features a few choices like a layered chocolate mousse or cream puffs.
Seating is limited, and Carroll said it would be ideal if people purchase their tickets ($29 each) by Nov. 10. To reserve spots, call the school at 250-642-5211 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. or try the program office after hours at 250-642-6371.