SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
Cooks in training got a little taste of the culinary arts from a Red Seal chef and member of Culinary Team B.C.
Tina Tang, recently ranked as one of Canada’s next star chefs, visited North Island College in Port Alberni earlier this month, giving students a primer on professional life and sharing one of her dessert recipes.
As a member of Culinary Team B.C., the pastry and culinary chef was among six B.C. junior chefs selected to compete next year at the IKA Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, Germany.
Tang grew up in Courtenay and enrolled in the same program, Pro Cook 1 and 2, that is now taught in Port Alberni.
“It’s very humbling actually,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t be here unless I’d had great mentorship. I’m really honoured to be back.”
She attended the program at the Campbell River campus and six years ago relocated to the Okanagan, taking a position that allowed her to develop her creative skills through mentorship.
“I love the Okanagan. I work at Predator Ridge and I’ve been in the Okanagan for six years now. Because of the company that they are, they are so supportive of what I do.”
Before speaking to the class, Tang prepared her signature dish, Okanagan Peach Cheesecake with Okanagan Spirits Bourbon. She likes to feature the stone fruits so abundant in the Interior, part of her emphasis on using healthy and local ingredients.
“I’m kind of hoping I’m a little bit more relatable,” she said of her return to a classroom, adding that she would one day like to turn to teaching. While the profession is known for its high-pressure and hard work, she stressed the importance of maintaining a work/life balance.
Tang said it was her first-generation Chinese-Canadian parents who piqued her interest in cooking. She recalled how they dispatched live chickens on the kitchen floor and later learned to appreciate the value of fresh foods.
Chef instructor Al Irving said visiting alumna can inspire aspiring chefs.
“We have students starting their Level 1 now who are dual credit students, just like Chef Tang was,” Irving said. “To be able to see where the culinary arts have taken her is very inspiring and show them just how far they can go.”
Tang was recently awarded the Canadian Culinary Federation Western Conference 2018 Chef of the Year as well as the Okanagan Chefs Association Chef of the Year. She is also a nominee for the National Chef of the Year to be awarded at a Canadian Culinary Federation conference in PEI in June.