International dinners wows Old Massett

  • Nov. 18, 2009 12:00 p.m.

By Judy McKinley–Dinner officially started at 5:30, but people were already starting to save seats at 4:30. It was the Culinary Arts Program International Dinner, in the Old Massett hall. In the just over a year they’ve been running, they’ve put on various community dinners in the hall, all with different themes. Last Friday’s dinner served cuisine from Italy, Thailand and local First Nations. “We divided the students into three teams,” says Darlene Godfrey, the program’s coordinator. “I gave them some guidelines – for example they needed to have entrees, desserts, one challenging dish – and then they looked up the recipes, decided what to cook.” The result was a smorgasbord of delights. Seafood egg rolls and crab legs, stuffed mushroom caps and sinfully rich nut chocolate torte, local seafood chowder with rich broth and roasted venison were some of the samplings available.”It feels so worthwhile,” said student Helen Davis. “Darlene keeps drilling it into us – we have to keep the customers happy, and they’ll keep coming back.” And come back they do. About 130 people attended the dinner, among them many regulars. The Culinary Arts team is building a fan following. Customer satisfaction is just one lesson Ms Godfrey passes on from her years of experience in the business. “We’re just all amazed how well we work together,” said Ms Davis. “I keep telling the students: “There is no I in team,” says Ms. Godfrey. “To me teamwork is a huge focus. If you don’t have a cohesive team, you can’t do your best work.” The teamwork is evident. The 11 students and teacher could be described as prolific, if there were such a word in culinary circles. Besides the community dinners, they do catering – this summer’s Davidson potlatch, or various community service meetings are examples – and they provided regular meals at cost for various community programs – the Language Nest and the Elders program are examples. It’s one of those win-win scenarios, where the students get the work experience they need – a whopping 5100 hours in total as part of their Red Seal designation – and community members get to tantalize their taste buds. This program is another coming from the OMVC Economic Development department. Patricia Moore, an officer there, continues to be an active support to the program. Back when she approached North West Community College in Terrace to see if a similar program could be launched here. And now: in two more years, 11 chefs will be unleashed on the world. “This program is more than I ever expected,” says Ms Davis, “I can’t believe how lucky we are to have a program like this in the community.”And these won’t be your ordinary chefs. Ms Davis worked for 11 years at the Haida Health Centre, and part of her job there was running the school breakfast program, and nutrition programs to youth at Tahayghen and Chief Matthews. “My dream is to adapt what we’re learning into simplified healthy cooking with young people. And I’d like to work with young parents, help them with meal planning and budgets.”And these are all lessons that are included in the Culinary Arts Program. The students learn a wide variety of skills, and after their third year, Ms Godfrey says, those students who do their tests will be able to work just in about just about any establishment they choose. “Overall this is a great group of people,” she says, “they work very hard, they’re very dedicated, I am very impressed.” Their success is due in no small degree to the commitment of the program’s coordinator. “I do get a bit worn out sometimes,” says Ms Godfrey, “but it’s an absolute pleasure working here. I came to Haida Gwaii 12 years ago, and I fell in love, so I am very grateful to have the ability to come here.” “It’s unbelievable how patient she is”, she said. Ms Davis. “She doesn’t mind repeating things, and when we’re not getting it, she says ‘don’t try harder, try different’ – she makes sure we each understand what’s going on, and accommodates all our different learning styles.”What’s next? The international dinner was a fundraiser for the team to go to Terrace in March and get experience with the school cooking for the BC winter Games. Proceeds also went to the graveyard restoration project and the new girls basketball team which helped to serve at the dinner on Friday. There may be a new intake for another program coming up, and talks are in the works for a high school version of the Professional Cooking 1. Eat while you can, and you too can say” “I knew them when.”

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