“Some people think getting into culinary school is easy, or one of the easiest degrees to get, but it’s not.” said Mike Culvert, executive chef at Warehouse 23.
The first graduating class from the new Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute are set to graduate in June 2019. Their potential future could look like a few other Clark College culinary alumni, who found free-range creativity at one of Vancouver’s newest restaurants, Warehouse 23.
Like most students nearing the work world in which they have been trained to succeed, they are concerned about having their skills undervalued due to a lack of work experience.
“There’s definitely a difference in experienced chefs with no culinary school experience and culinary students with no work experience,” Mark Matthias, owner of Beaches and Warehouse 23, said.
Graduating from a culinary program like Clark’s might give students an advantage by giving them a basic knowledge of food safety, food preparation and knife handling, among other skills. These are important skills to have when transitioning into a high volume kitchen, which is a vastly different experience from the classroom.
Before the program began, Matthias was part of the committee that built the curriculum for the culinary center. One trait that he was adamant about students being taught was the importance of connecting with guests.
“Nobody builds kitchens behind closed doors anymore,” he said. “You need that connection with the guests, and I think Clark is going to nail that.”
Connecting with the final consumer instead of just looking at the final product is crucial for the growth of the culinary industry. They could have a very different opinion than the chef’s opinion when it comes to the final product. While the final product may be judged on the recipe and presentation, it is the opinion of the final consumer which matters the most.
Matthias looks for creativity and a passion in his chefs, as well as chefs who lead by example. Mike Culvert, executive chef at Warehouse 23, fits that description.
Culvert has been cooking since he was a kid, but joined Clark’s culinary program a few years ago to further his culinary endeavors.
“My first week at Clark I became a lead student which is where I learned teaching about food was my passion. I got more out of culinary school than just learning things,” Culvert said. “I knew about cooking and techniques, but I learned more about dedication and myself.”
Now that he runs his own kitchen, Culvert has hired two Clark alums as lead chefs, Mitch Bateman and Tom Strickland.
“I don’t care how good of a cook you are, you can never master cooking,” Culvert said. “You can be a Michelin five-star chef and there will still be a better way to do something. There are so many different things you can do. The opportunities are endless.”