Going through SAIT’s Professional Cooking Diploma Program
by Harsimran Chahal
"I think that if all kids aspire to reach a point where they could feed themselves and a few of their friends, this would be good for the world, surely. – Anthony Bourdain"
The Professional Cooking diploma provided by SAIT is considered one of the best programs in Canada, due to it teaching students to master the craft of the culinary. The program includes a hands-on training system set up by world-renowned chefs, including Michael Dekker and Michael Allemeier.
The PCK (an acronym for the two-year Professional
Cooking Program) program is not simply for those
who merely aspire to be chefs. It’s for culinary
enthusiasts such as myself, who wish to comprehend
and execute the different techniques
and teachings that are needed in order to be part
of the culinary industry. This program introduced
me to many job opportunities within the industry,
such as pâtissière, event planner, sommelier, and
food stylist. I’ve been provided with the tools I
need in order to share my thoughts in a critical
manner within the industry.
I was 17 years old when I first started the PCK
program. I didn’t know much about the culinary
industry; however, I understood that in order
to start my career as a food editor/critic, SAIT
would be an amazing first step. I then acquainted
myself with many different chefs from different
ethnic backgrounds. In addition to sharing their
techniques with me, they shared stories of their
own paths to success.
When I first applied to the SAIT culinary program,
I expected to gain real-life industry experience,
with a broad knowledge of different culinary
trades, which I received along with so much
more. I met teachers who’ve become friends,
who continue to guide me in the right direction
as an aspiring food critic. SAIT provided me with
the opportunity to communicate and connect
with culinary professionals who taught, disciplined,
and mentored me. I was introduced to
each of these instructors within a small class,
which allowed me to connect and understand the
instructors, a perfect building block that helped
me achieve success.
Chef Michael Dekker, the previous executive
chef at Rouge, was one of the many instructors
who wished deeply for the success of his students.
I recall having a one-on-one conversation
with him on the last day of lunch à la carte. He
asked me what I wanted to do after culinary and
if I wished to pursue a career as a chef. Instructors
like chef Dekker are one of the many reasons
the PCK program at SAIT excels in ensuring
the success of its students.
I still remember the moment I stepped through
the kitchen doors in my chef whites. I entered
a classroom of very ambitious people, all with
unique objectives. The atmosphere that SAIT
provided, especially the hospitality and tourism
program, was beyond sensational. I grasped an
ample amount of the knowledge that I believe
is essential for a future cook. I was introduced
to the five mother sauces, butchery, fundamental
cooking techniques, and so much
more. My experience was heightened the
moment I met my classmates – we prevailed
together and approached each obstacle with
PCK challenged me every day, while simultaneously
turning each obstacle into an opportunity
to learn and educate myself about each new
topic. I was confident I would gain a job during
or after my program because SAIT provided
me with all of the opportunities to do so –
its grad employment rate is standing at 89%.
SAIT students such as myself are given the
chance to attend a bi-annual Career Direction
Fair that attracts more than 100+ employers
from some of the largest Canadian companies.
This job fair not only allowed me to widen my
network and connect with leading professionals,
but helped me secure a job in the industry.
I got my first real taste of a true kitchen
environment through the PCK program. I was
instructed in a variety of different live classroom
settings, such as the incredible Highwood
Dining Room, the 4 Nine kitchen, the downtown
culinary campus, and the newly developed
Tastemarket. This not only taught me how to
act in front of watchful eyes, but also how to
interact with and understand the customers in
order to satisfy them as a cook.
I did not just gain lifelong instructors, or
remarkable chefs as friends, or a certificate
showing my dedication and hard work during
these two years. I gained skills that I will take
with me for the rest of my life. Patience, a
sense of urgency, attention to detail, cleanliness,
and multitasking are just some of the
many beneficial traits that I have gained. My
passion was elevated and my path became
much more clear.
I stood in my cap and gown during graduation,
facing the instructors that mentored and guided
me, and the students who started out as
strangers but soon turned into “family.” At that
moment, I understood exactly how lucky I was
to have been introduced to an amazing facility
that put my education first. I am thankful to my
classmates for encouraging and supporting me,
for the teachers who turned into role models,
and a unique program that gave me the opportunity
to follow my dream.
Read entire article in the digital issue of City Palate.