Name: Brendan Platts
Years of experience: Two years in current position; eight years in total
Occupation: Chocolatier/Pastry Chef at Cava Restaurant
How did you get started in your industry?
I grew up with both parents cooking quite often. My mother would make (and still makes) the best preserves from mostly locally grown produce, while my father handled the daily breakfast/dinner cookery. I suppose you could say it’s in my blood.
After secondary education, I was part of a volunteer program called Katimavik. As part of my travels, I spent a few months cooking at a café in a little town north of Montreal, St. Adele.
I enrolled at Sir Sanford Fleming College for Culinary Management following Katimavik. As part of my program, I had a chance to help manage several large catering functions, including a wedding for I Do ... Let’s Eat! on the Food Network.
I started at Cava shortly after graduation.
Describe the ideal qualities a person should have to succeed in your industry?
A few qualities I believe anyone pursuing this career should have would be adaptability, strength (both mental and physical), humbleness and a willingness to learn. Being malleable to the needs of your employer and co-workers is paramount.
Thick skin and a friendly attitude doesn’t hurt, either.
What kind of background, either educational or other, best suits someone starting out in your industry?
I would say that pursuing an apprenticeship or formal post-secondary education (or a combination of both) is the best start. You learn a lot of fundamental food theory, knife skills, and etiquette.
What do you like most about your job?
A great deal of the pleasure I get from my job originates from my co-workers and employers. We’re a tightly-knit family. I’ve never had such pleasure in working as I do at Xococava, and Cava.
It’s also a great learning environment. It’s like getting your MA for food.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of your industry?
Certainly the sheer length of the work day poses a challenge at first. Balancing work with a social life and keeping up with house-work and exercise takes a bit of effort.
For newcomers to the industry, what tips would you offer them?
• Keep your mind and knives sharp.
• Stay well-fed, hydrated, and rested.
• Accept criticism openly, and learn from it.
What kind of local associations/organizations/volunteer activities would you recommend?
Offer a “stage” at a few restaurants you would like to work at. This will give you a chance to demonstrate your skills in a live-fire kitchen environment, as well as show the chef your willingness to learn.
If you enrol in a college program in the food industry, put your name in the ring for any extracurricular functions, events, etc.
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