The cooking training program offered at Templeton Secondary has served students like Jesse Ong, a Grade 12 student, with the necessary tools and training to prepare for the highly competitive culinary industry.
"The opportunities that students get when they choose to enter this program help students like Ong to develop their own recipe for dealing with high pressure situations," says Patti Koyanagi, one of the program's instructors.
Templeton's cooking program is part of the Accelerated Credit Enrolment In Industry Training program (ACE-IT), a partnership between Metro Vancouver secondary schools and Vancouver Community College. While still enrolled in secondary school, students take the first level technical component of an apprenticeship program.
"The training and work experience that I've received through this program, have instilled a strong work ethic," says Ong. "The program is incredibly supportive of my passion."
Ong is part of a family tree that includes many accomplished chefs.
In 2011, Ong won Gold in the Provincial Baking and Pastry Arts Skills. He then went on to compete in the Canadian Skills Competition in Quebec City and won Silver in the Canada Baking and Pastry Arts.
Students excel in ACE-IT programs because they are doing something they feel excited about.
While in their first level of technical training, students are expected to participate in competitions such as Iron Chef, Canada Skills, the Chili Cooking competition and many others. Students also use their skills for humanitarian purposes.
Recently, Ong realized one of his dreams was to travel abroad and receive a first-hand educational experience on European cuisine in Italy and France as part of his program's global trip.
"When we went to Italy we learned how to make house made pasta and different types of flours," says Ong. "We learned about cheese and we also visited a balsamic wine farm. We also went into the heart of cities to try different cuisines. I always took Vancouver's food for granted but when I traveled, I realized how lucky we are on the coast."
Students must complete one thousand hours of work experience. Program staff say the positive reputation that the Cooking Program at Templeton has acquired due to its ability to produce promising industry-prepared future chefs has cemented strong relationships with the local culinary industry. These relationships have facilitated Ong with work placements at higher-end restaurants like the Vancouver Club and Cactus Club.
"This program has magnified my passion as a chef," says Ong. "It made me a better team player. I am not afraid to share my point of view but I am also very open minded which I believe is important in the culinary industry."