The pans will be sizzling, the whisks will be whizzing and the heat will be building as budding young chefs from across the province face-off for George Brown College’s annual Chefs in the City event.
High school hospitality students practise the recipes months in advance before donning their chef whites to compete in either culinary, pastry or Whiz Kid categories.
Up for grabs is $60,000 worth of George Brown scholarships, and the chance to run a lunch or dinner service at the college’s brand-new restaurant, The Chefs’ House.
Chef John Higgins, director of the George Brown chef school, says every year, as students get better, their desire to win gets stronger.
“The intensity of the young students really struck me,” says Higgins. “They want the bragging rights and the teachers coaching them are coaching them well.”
Though Chefs in the City is in its eighth year, Higgins says the competition’s goal remains the same.
“For me, it’s about getting them interested in the food service business,” says Higgins. “It’s that practice level and the skill level they need.”
Food Network Canada celebrity chef Robert Rainford also says Chefs in the City gives students a taste of kitchen realities.
“This program really focuses the kids who are going to get into the culinary field,” says Rainford, who has been one of the competition’s judges for four years. “It actually trains the students properly, so they’re coming into the field with the right impression.”
Rainford, who teaches a food theory course at George Brown, adds that teamwork and passion are essential ingredients in a recipe for Chefs in the City success.
“What I like to see is that bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, ‘I can’ attitude,” he says.
Ian Campbell is a student at Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute who knows all about the importance of teamwork. Last year, he took home first place with his three teammates in the culinary category.
“Cooking is just fun for me,” says Campbell. “And when I get into a competition it brings a challenge. It’s exciting.”
This year, Campbell will compete in the Whiz Kid category, where he will go up against 25 other students in an egg dish cook-off. He says practice is key.
“You never really know if you’re going to do it properly when it’s time to do it,” he says. “I didn’t win Whiz Kid last year, so this year I want to see if I can.”
In the meantime, Campbell will continue his co-op placement at Toronto’s Hôtel Le Germain before he applies to a post-secondary hospitality program.
“Chefs in the City I can definitely put on my resumé, or on my cover letter to George Brown,” he says.