Pork loin, Tabasco sauce, half an hour and less than two metres of counter space.
Throw in some forethought and nerves of steel from 17-year-old chef Amanda St. Pierre and the result was a hazelnut crusted pork chop with vanilla yam purée, a seared potato ring, shredded brussels sprouts with pancetta, electric blackberry beurre blanc and chipotle tobasco sauce.
The gourmet creation – prepared Jan. 29 during the B.C. Food Service Expo’s Hot Competition Live at the Vancouver Convention Centre – earned the Spectrum Community School student a silver medal in the Junior Chef Challenge.
“I was fine until they said ‘set’ and then I was freaking out,” said St. Pierre, one of four Spectrum students participating in a pilot project offered through Camosun College. The course is taken online and offers a professional cooking apprenticeship. St. Pierre, also a third cook at Bear Mountain resort, was the only student from Greater Victoria at the Iron Chef-style challenge in Vancouver.
It was an intense situation and, with her high school teacher watching, the Grade 12 student finished 20 seconds under the allotted time.
“It was pretty inspiring,” said Spectrum culinary arts teacher Lauri Humeniuk, noting St. Pierre’s plate presentation and timing. “I was definitely proud of her. It’s a real pressure cooker and she did really well.”
Cafeteria manager Michelle Darling commends St. Pierre on her ability to stay focused – a trait many of her high school counterparts had yet to fully develop. “She gets it,” Darling said. “It’s really hard to find someone this young with this level of commitment.”
Culinary arts students at Spectrum receive a year of full-time experience between Grades 11 and 12 while preparing two meals a day and catering school and community events. Senior students such as St. Pierre have the opportunity to work toward a Professional Cook (PC) Level 1 certification and apply to post-secondary cooking programs as second-year students.
“It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed doing,” said St. Pierre, who has also helps her instructors teach younger students. “I have strong emotions and I cook to relieve stress.”
Spectrum’s culinary arts program has been a fixture at the school since 1979. It accepts between 12-18 students annually, including those from outside the school’s catchment area.
For more information, visit SpectrumCulinary.com.