Category Archives: Blog

Megan Proper’s blog Nov. 28: A life-changing learning experience in Luxembourg

Megan Proper
Member, Junior Culinary Team Canada

If I could go back in time five years and see my future, I would never have imagined being where I am now.

Overlooking Canada from our flight back home, l can finally reflect on my last two weeks.

I took my first cooking class in high school, where I started to realize where I thought my life might take me – a world of flavours, skills and lifelong dreams.  As I continued my culinary career into college, I began to learn that my true potential would be in pastry.

I am now part of the Junior Culinary Olympic team that is returning from our first international competition in Luxembourg. To date, it’s been an emotional, physical, and most fun and rewarding experience – to say the least.

The things my team and I have seen and experienced are life-changing. We visited bakeries almost 100 years old. We learned where a teammate’s family grew up and its history. We grew new professional relationships with Germany army team. And, of course, we competed on a world-level standard.

None of this would even be possible without the incredible education and guidance from Niagara College and its staff. As I’ve developed my pastry skills over the last five years, nothing compares to how my team has helped me grow during the last year and a half.

We are like a family. We love each other, have each other’s back, and we most certainly do argue. I think what we have all learned during the last two weeks is that it’s not about who is right at the end of an argument, but what needs to be done to get the job done right. That’s just what we did, not as individuals but as a team.

We are all flying home with gold and silver medals, and spectacular memories.

We learned that it’s not just about us. It’s about everyone working together to get the job done.

We shared a hotel with the German military team in Luxembourg, and we ate dinner together almost every night exchanging tips and tricks. When we ate our final dinner together last night, I sat at the table looking at both teams. I finally understood what my coaches and manager have been telling us all along.

We didn’t come to Luxembourg just to bring a medal home. They gave us these experiences to help us develop as mature aspiring chefs.

To my team, coaches, family and everyone I met along the way, thank you.

David Ross’ blog Nov. 24: Reflections on a silver medal

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David Ross

Member, Junior Culinary Team Canada

Hello fellow readers! I hope everyone is enjoying all the blogs written by the team members. I know they are having a blast reflecting on the experience that we have been having.

We have gone through the marathon of our cold program and I definitely think we have grown so strong since we started as a team.

During our cold program, our team was tested mentally and physically with long hours all week. Then, the 24-hour run threw as well as dealing with our nerves and dedication to perfection.

After all said and done and the table was put together, there was a strong sense of pride from all team members and all were excited to see the outcome at the medal ceremonies of what two years of hard work would bring us. Leading up to the ceremonies the nerves were through the roof with anticipation. Most of us had not slept even though we had done overnight glazing.

Once we arrived at the ceremonies it was a very long process to get to our category. We acknowledged that every competitor has been training and exhausting themselves the same as we have. Once called up, I was super anxious to know the outcome and they announced we got silver.

I’m a very competitive person and am very critical about how I do and what I could have improved on. I will continue to think, for a while, what could I could have done differently to change that medal colour.

There’s another side of me however, that reassures me that this is only our first international competition and that silver is awesome. Out of every junior chef in Canada. I got to compete for my country on an international level and will continue to compete in the Olympics in two years.

I always try to see the positive things in life. I walk away from this with an amazing experience, a great bunch of friends and coaches, and a team manager that I have huge respect for.

It’s hard work being on this team and sacrificing a lot to be on it – friends and family most of all as time during the day is being spent as working and training. In the end, I know it’s all worth it for moments like this when you feel tremendous pride for your country and colleagues.

Tomorrow is our hot program and I am nervous to go and cook but I think we are ready – ready to bring Canada home a gold medal and to show all the non-believers that all the sacrifice has been worth it.

I can’t thank everyone enough for the support and ongoing push to move forward from everyone back home as it is what’s pushing us to strive to be the best.

Much love to you all and you better believe that when we win gold we are going to show Luxembourg how Canadians celebrate.

Captain Iain Dawson’s blog Nov. 23: Learning recipe for leadership from scratch

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My poker face is pretty much non-existent.

But I’ve staked two years of my life into the Junior Culinary Olympic team and, after today, I’m beginning to feel that maybe I have a knack for it.

This competition is my one and only chance at an Olympic medal on the junior level. After this, I will be too old to compete, as 25 is the cut-off age.

I’ve never competed professionally as a cook and when I first started this journey, the competitive world was a mystery to me. Now it’s my life. I’ve lost friends, alienated myself from my family and lost some colour in my hair all because I’ve been pushing hard, so damn hard, to make this one hell of an exit.

It has landed me in the position of captain which is a whole new educational realm be dropped into cold turkey, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I’ve learned what it means to really own something, to run it, create it, mold it, nurture it, and let it go every once and a while and just see how it runs.

I’ve learned no leader can be a good cop or a bad cop. You have to be the voice of reality, the voice that, at times, no one wants to hear; the one that says, ‘It’s not good enough,’ that tells you to try again, try harder. That’s how you grow – by being placed in situations where you are completely uncomfortable, with a seemingly impossible task, and attacking it anyway.

On the other end, you’re the voice that everyone needs to hear – the voice of support. The one that infuses confidence and nurtures ideas.

That’s what makes a good leader – someone who can be both of those voices and maintain a cool head … I’m still working on the last part.

After today, I will feel proud as a captain and a teammate.

Together the team charged into the first of two parts of our competitive career here in Luxembourg, pushed to the breaking point and created the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen accomplished this year. I can’t wait for the awards ceremony, to see how the crème a la crème of our work compares to the world standard of gold, silver and bronze.

I’m confident we’ll hit it high. We always do. We are from Niagara College, after all.

We’ve been getting some awesome support from back home. A lot of our teachers, family, friends and workmates have sent e-mails and Facebook messages wishing us the best of luck. It’s all very inspiring.

The idea of them standing behind us, cheering us on from our homeland will surely light a fire in every one of us and give us that last push we need to score a victory.


Photo: Iain Dawson, captain of Junior Culinary Team Canada, places  the final touches on the team’s cold program submission at the Culinary World Cup 2014.


Katrina Young Nov. 21: Months of prep boils down to week ahead

It’s opening ceremony day at the Villeroy and Boch Culinary World Cup 2014 at Expogast 2014.
We are on our way to Messe to meet Olaf and Iain who have been there for a few hours now. So I’m very excited to see what happens next and how this will proceed.
I’ve never been to any sort of competition so I have no idea how the room will be organized. I’m excited to see the other teams and especially the work they will put out when it’s all finished. I’m mostly looking forward to seeing what everyone else is doing because I really haven’t seen much except for what we do and some pictures from past competitions in books.
Today we woke up bright and early to get our final ingredients looking perfect, and to reset our room to suit the 24-hour long glazing session. We will start the glazing session tomorrow so that Sunday, Nov. 23, at 4 a.m., we can depart with our program to set up and have judged. It’s getting really intense just thinking about that.
We have forgotten about needing sleep and are focused on the next week ahead because this is what it all comes down to. We’ve spent countless hours in the kitchen, especially during the last few months. Now we get to see what that translates to on a world scale.
Time for the opening ceremony … gotta go! There are so many people here ahhhhhhh!

Rebekka Schmitt’s blog Nov. 18, 2014: La Provencale opens door to unforgettable culinary experience

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Junior Culinary Team Canada member Rebekka Schmitt (left) explores produce aisles at La Provencale with college photographer/videographer Luke Gillett (right), and has an opportunity to sample several new varieties, thanks to helpful employee Patrik (middle).


Today was amazing to say the least. We made a trip to a store called La Provencale. It’s a huge store filled with only the finest of just about any food you can think of.
As I was walking through the store with our photographer Luke Gillett and looking at the produce, I was called over by a man named Patrik who worked there. He started showing us all kinds of different blossoms and exotic fruits. Everything we had never tried before he would just open up and give to us.
We tried countless fruits, vegetables, and blossoms. It was one of those culinary experiences you always dream of getting. It was such a great help because I was able to find all of the things I will need for the competition.
It was also so educational. I have never tried so many things from so many countries. I really enjoyed it and it was an experience that I won’t forget.

Benjamin Lillico’s blog: Nov. 16, 2014: Preparing for dinner service at Marburger Esszimmer

Benjamin J Lillico

Benjamin Lillico

Member, Junior Culinary Team Canada

9:15 a.m. (German time)
After the long red eye flight yesterday and gently scoping out what Marburg has to offer, we are off to produce our last hot program run through at Marburg Esszimmer. A quick rest and a tall glass of fresh pressed orange juice is all we need to get in the zone. As we pack our goods and press our jackets we are anxious as a team to get into this magnificent kitchen where not only the product, but the equipment is so clean and advanced that we are all eager to try out what Europe has to offer. As we begin our preparation today we are extremely humbled by the opportunity to get this last practice in! #moretocome

4:45 p.m.
Wow. What an exciting day so far. Food preparation for tonight’s dinner looks better than ever because the quality of ingredients are impeccable. The team is currently transferring kitchens from the production facility to the dining room kitchen. As we focus on setting up for service and finishing the final touches we are all extremely excited for tonight’s event. Regardless that some members are anxious and some are overwhelmed, we know what we are here to do … put up an Olympic performance and wow our guests. Tonight is our final run-through and it is going to make Canada proud.
My words of advice to the team for our soon-to-come service tonight is the 4 Cs: Calm, Clean, Clinical, and Canadian.
Get ready Marburg … Team Canada is here and we have an experience for you tonight. #ncjrculinaryteamca

9:45 p.m.
As our Canadian counterparts start gearing up for dinner this evening, we have concluded our 13-hour (and counting) day with a well executed 70 cover dinner service. As our team started gearing up to service, the momentum shifted to a focused mindset. We all had jobs to do and we knew how to execute them. Service started and the core team started putting up solid plates worthy of gold any day.
With last minute curveballs of late arrivals, dietary restrictions and more, the team did not flinch. Everything became second nature and service was speedy and consistent.
As we wrap up our evening we start packing … again. Luxembourg tomorrow! We will spend some hours tonight bonding and polishing the goods. #goingforgold

Jeremy Gilligan’s blog Nov. 15, 2014: Ready for take-off

Jeremy Gilligan prepares for the first flight of his life with Junior Culinary Team Canada on day one of the team's trip to Europe.

Jeremy Gilligan prepares for the first flight of his life with Junior Culinary Team Canada on day one of the team’s trip to Europe.

Jeremy ‘Clark’ Gilligan
Team position: saucier for competition’s Cold Program, glaze technician, equipment manager
Although I am ecstatic to be here in Germany and to be a member of the team, I have absolutely been dreading my first flight. I do not like rollercoasters, let alone an eight-hour flight. I’m not going to lie –the take-off was terrifying. I was white knuckling the seat holding on to the wall of the plane and generally trying to keep my composure. I feel I did a fairly good job as much as my team mates had fun with it.
The flight itself was fairly smooth except the one instance where we had to put on our seat belts due to turbulence which was kind of nerve rattling. I had a constant stomach ache for eight hours and did not sleep a wink.
The landing was even more terrifying than the take-off. It felt like it took forever. I was very glad to put my feet on land.
Immediately after the flight, we went to a 96-year old bakery for a two-hour breakfast of pork tartar, sausage and assorted breads, which was delicious (but probably not the best choice for me, considering my condition and no sleep in two days).
By the time we reached the hotel and got into our rooms I immediately passed out for four hours and woke to find my stomach ache, jet lag and fears gone. The experience was one I will remember for ever and I’m so thankful that it happened.
I believe my return flight will be a bit better and, who knows, maybe I will actually sleep!
We had an amazing dinner tonight by Chef Bernie Seiner Marburger Esszimmer and will be returning there tomorrow to put a dinner on for them. I am really looking forward to bringing our take on cuisine to the people of Germany and I am sure we will delight them with what we are preparing for them.
The next couple weeks are going to be a lot of work but, after training and practicing for over a year for this event, it will be an awesome experience.
I am sure we will bring home gold.