Pia Carroll was a friend to many, a mentor to most and a role model for everyone. She passed as gracefully as she lived, with dignity and a quiet resolve on December 18.
For many of the students who came into the Culinary Arts program at EMCS, Pia Carroll’s mentorship and passion for cooking changed their lives. Many of the graduates from the program would not have stayed in school if not for Pia.
At a critical turning point in Pia’s life, she was hired for the culinary arts program. It changed her life and it changed the lives of the students who studied in her classes.
But her influence went far beyond the classroom, it extended into the community and into the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to get to know her.
Zachary Regan got his start in cooking through the Culinary Arts Program at EMCS. He became close to Pia as they endlessly discussed self sustainability and getting and growing their own food. Regan hunts, fishes and gardens and their connection was a good one.
“She was a great mentor.” said Regan. “She was a really, really good cooking instructor.” He said she wouldn’t let teenagers push the boundaries instead she let them blossom.
“She was amazing.”
Former Principal and VP of EMCS Roberta Kubick first met Pia at EMCS, and it was through Pia that Kubick saw how she could participate in and view the community.
“She really shaped and positively influenced how I feel about Sooke.”
Kubick mentioned the EMCS Society board and how that board interacted, and how they intelligently and compassionately supported the community.
“It was better than any university course.”
Kubick said Pia was instrumental in bringing in the slow food concept. They worked closely on grant funding applications for the garden at EMCS and they ensured the project was done locally with students building/designing and cultivating the gardens. The trades class built the shed – the whole school became involved.
“The garden is the heart of the school and a place where all could gather,” said Rubick. All excess food was shared with local families in need.
Her impact and influence on the culinary arts and the students was obvious. She held the trust of many students as she encouraged them to strive to be all they can be, said Kubick.
“Her actions and her compassion guided students to new heights, Pia has made an imprint on us all.”
Kubrick called her a woman without limits.
David Feys, a retired chef and friend said there must have been something in the water at the Sooke Harbour House back in 1989 when he arrived there. Three ladies working there were all pregnant at the same time, Pia was one of them.
“I remember her as being very passionate about food and process and a very caring soul. Very gentle even when she had tough words for you. There was this twinkle in her eye and that giggle. There was a definite joy to what she did, her love for her girls. She was a passionate mother but not coddling, she raised those girls to be strong, independent and confident.”
A very gentle, easy going soul, it was easy to be around her, but she was strong willed and she did have her convictions. Pia was Pia, reliable, consistent, loyal and non-judgmental.
“She was an impactful teacher.”
She became an icon for food culture,” said long time friend Phoebe Dunbar. “She changed the views we have on food.”
So many in Sooke knew Pia or knew of her –for over 30 years she was the special icon for our food culture! Her teachings went far beyond the classroom and lunch program. She engaged the students with all that community “catering” – conferences, weddings, grad ceremonies, farm forums, feasts, film nights etc., where we all learnt so much just by being with Pia – sourcing local foods, planning the menus, and lest we forget – “presentation” – the ultimate culinary ART. It wasn’t always high cuisine, for a number of springs it was the year end longboat rowing picnics for her class down at Whiffin Spit. Who knew hamburgers could ever taste so good cooked over small wood fires. Mountain and meadow picnics – so simple, so delicious. Tasting local foods, tasting Pia’s home cooking, her Tugwell cob oven pizzas and all those goodies that would arrive at our kitchen porches when least expected.
Much of the joy of sourcing local foods for close to 20 years with Pia was the foraging we did – the impromptu times we took, stepping away from our busy lives to scout out the best places for wild berries: huckles, blueberries (all seven varieties up on the ridge) and bog cranberries.
Pia’s food habitats also included the ocean. Salmon fishing with the girls, reaping the rewards of Heggelund’s crabs! Maywell’s delicious unadulterated smoked salmon and black cod. The Vowles shrimps and free swimming scallops. John Jenkins prawns and tuna. Pit cooks with T’Sou-ke Nation. Did it ever end? No.
“This icon and dear friend will live on and be a part of Sooke’s food culture for a long long time. Pia – you are forever in our hearts, kitchens and the wilds. Bon Appetit indeed!’
Anne Boquist – “We loved each other for a long time and I will miss her terribly. She was a great gift to all of us, she shared herself widely and will never be forgotten!”
A celebration of life is being held on January 24 at the Sooke Harbour House from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.