Surf and turf: Haida Gwaii culinary program aims to keep local chef talent at home

May 8, 2013

The Old Massett Village Council (OMVC) Culinary Arts program is showing locals how cooking is about more than just food – it’s also good practice for community and economic development. Established in 2007 in Old Massett on Haida Gwaii, the culinary arts program gives students the opportunity to learn and practice cooking skills without having to leave their home communities. “When we originally started this program it was about filling some of those economic gaps in the north,” said Patricia Moore, OMVC economic development planner. “[Traditionally], we fly in our chefs, we fly in our help and none of the money they make off of the resources stays on Haida Gwaii.” With a strong summer tourism industry on Haida Gwaii, there’s a demand for trained and experienced chefs in the food and beverage industry. However, to gain the necessary skills to work in the industry, aspiring chefs on Haida Gwaii are required to leave their homes and relocate to other communities off the islands.

The Old Massett Village Council saw the creation of a culinary arts program as a way to reverse the talent drain in their community and retain wellpaying jobs for locals. In addition to providing skills-based food training, the OMVC had to solve the issue of offering students with the pre-requisite hours of industry experience required to become a certified Red Seal chef. To solve this problem, the OMVC created opportunities for emerging chefs to provide healthy and nutritious meals to their community through hot meal programs at school, meals on wheels for seniors and a catering business. As part of its Community Halls and Recreation Facilities program, Northern Development has invested in the renovation of the Old Massett Message from the Chair and CEO Surf and turf: Haida Gwaii culinary program aims to keep local chef talent at home Message from the Chair and CEO – continued on page 3 community hall kitchen. This new kitchen serves as a much needed space for culinary arts classes and learning opportunities to take place.

With the Haida Enterprise Corporation’s (HaiCo) recent purchase of West Coast Resorts, a vacation lodge on Haida Gwaii, there is even more opportunity to connect culinary students with the industry experience that they need. With unemployment rates close to 70%, an aging population and increasing rates of diabetes, the project is working to address some of the community’s most pressing economic and social concerns. The OMVC Culinary Arts program feeds approximately 200 people per day and serves more than 16,000 meals per year.