By Dan Walton
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But this doesn’t apply to one Oliver teen.
Chef Siobhan Detkavich will be travelling to Winnipeg soon to test her culinary skills against other talented cooks from around the country.
The upcoming graduate of Southern Okanagan Secondary School will be competing as a culinary artist at the Skills Canada National Competition at the end of May.
Detkavich has been training as a chef since she moved to town two years ago. Last year she was earning high school credits while living and studying at Okanagan College in Kelowna, and she’s on her third year of working in the kitchen at Terrafina Restaurant at Hester Creek.
When she first started cooking up wonders in the kitchen, she really enjoyed it and thought her creations weren’t too bad.
“But then working with a chef and instructors at Okanagan College – they really pushed me,” she said.
Detkavich feels like she’s swimming with the sharks by practicing upscale dining at a gourmet restaurant.
“By using ingredients and products from local artisans and farmers, you get to have that creativity at a real restaurant. And at culinary school, the teachers show you the basic fundamentals of how culinary came to be.”
She’ll be showing off those Iron Chef skills at the national competition. In order to advance to that level, she first had to edge out opponents in regional and provincial events.
Skills Canada evaluates chefs on how well they prepare simple foods such as eggs or vegetables, but there’s an extremely high degree of precision they’re expected to achieve. Detkavich will be getting more egg practice in before the nationals “because the time is so crucial.”
And competitors are under the pressure of a three-hour time limit.
“They were seeing how well we could prepare old-school French cuisine, but without all that technology that makes it simple nowadays.”
Detkavich is nervous but excited for competition. Because Canada is so vast, she says cooking styles differ among chefs from province to province. Like in the Maritimes, where seafood is a much bigger part of the diet.
“They had all these flamboyant ways with their food,” she said.
But she noticed that every culinary artist has their own trademarks, depending on who they trained under and where.
“No chef has the same style, everyone has their own little tweaks.”
After she finishes high school, Detkavich plans on going back to Okanagan College to complete the six-week-long Professional Cook 3 course, having already completed the first two. She eventually plans to earn her Red Seal as a chef, though she isn’t rushing into it – first, she would rather travel the world to gain more wisdom from international chefs.
“I’d like to be able to travel; backpack around Europe and other continents,” she said. “Go to other countries and work under different chefs in all sorts of styles.”
Many of the foreign foods that are popular in Canada aren’t actually authentic but rather Westernized versions, and Detkavich wants to experience the real thing.
“I really want to go to Italy and Greece where traditions have been passed for countless generations.”
Detkavich is already fielding job offers from restaurants around the world and cruise ships. But if for some reason the culinary arts don’t work, she has her eye on medical school as a backup.