Congratulations to our very own Ben Hodder, CCFCC Nova Scotia who recently won the CCFCC Saputo National Junior Culinary Challenge during the 53rd Conference in Windsor, Ontario in May 2016.
Ben has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his competition in hopes of inspiring future competitors!
Please read below:
Ben, where are you from?
I was born in Brantford, Ontario but I moved away at a young age and was raised in Newfoundland.
A little about yourself? Where you work, where you’re from etc.
I grew up on the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland, it’s great to grow up in a small town before moving to big cities because you get an appreciation for both lifestyles. My main interest since I was a kid was becoming a famous musician. I still love to play and make music but once I introduced myself to the culinary industry it has become my passion and main focus. I’m proud to have just graduated from the Culinary Arts program at NSCC Kingstec campus. I did a work placement at Raymonds Restaurant in St. John’s last summer and now I’m hoping to stay there for another year before I start travelling the world.
How long have you been cooking for?
Just about three years now.
How did you get into competing in the CCFCC Saputo Junior Culinary Challenge?
One of my instructors at NSCC informed us all of the competition during our first semester and it has been a goal of mine to compete in it since. I feel lucky to have this opportunity especially with all the talented people that were in my graduating class.
Who kept you motivated and mentored you throughout this experience?
I have too many culinary inspirations to name but nobody has motivated me more throughout this experience than my instructor Chef Peter Dewar. He has taught me so much throughout the past two years and I couldn’t ask for a better mentor. I have the pleasure of being friends with the junior champion of 2015 Dana O’Brien who would also lend words of encouragement. Chef Claude AuCoin from NSCC Ackerly campus was also a big help with his advice, judging and critiques.
Any odd remedies that you did before the competition for good luck?
No odd remedies but I do have a plush toy that my grandfather gave me that I always keep around for good luck. It seems to have worked out.
After competition, how did you feel? Anything you would have changed?
There’s always room for improvement. In this industry you’re always learning and you’ll never reach your full potential if you don’t try to better yourself and hone your skills every day. At the end of the day i’m very happy with how I performed but it’s important that I stay motivated and keep moving forward.
What is life after the competition?
Right now I’m spending time with my family and enjoying the beautiful weather and just trying to relax a little before I jump back into the work force. I’m very excited to begin my career and discover where it can take me.
Do you have any advice, tips and tricks for our future competitors?
The most important trait a competitor must have is work ethic. If you have the right personality and skills after that it all comes down to trial and error. Try everything three times, make sure your recipes work, stay organized, practice your menu, perfect your time management, overcome any fear and try to walk in to the kitchen with confidence. The most important thing is that you have fun and you learn… But the trophy is pretty nice as well.
Welcome to Kelsey Fitzgerald, junior member of CCFCC Regina, originally CCFCC Winnipeg.
Please read below about her experience while on the Saputo Culinary Exchange in 2015.
Juniors – please visit ccfcc.ca for more information about this year’s exchange – taking place in the beautiful province of Quebec!
Hello, fellow readers! My name is Kelsey Fitzgerald and I am a junior member of the CCFCC Regina branch, a transfer from my original branch in Winnipeg. I was pleased to be asked by our Western Junior representative, Tina Tang, if I would write this piece detailing my experiences and what became of the junior culinary exchange 2015. I was incredibly excited to hear of her plans for a Junior Mise blog and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this new endeavour by sharing my experiences on the once in a lifetime experience that was the culinary exchange.
The junior culinary exchange, sponsored by the CCFCC and Saputo brought four students from different provinces all together for a whirlwind two weeks in Regina and Saskatoon. These two weeks were filled with stages, restaurant tours, visits to local farms and breweries, fishing, and foraging for wild chanterelles. There was a large emphasis on local product and displaying the large contributions that Saskatchewan makes to the global food scene.
These two weeks took four strangers and brought them together under the supportive guidance of some of the best chef mentors a junior could ask for. Their hospitality and genuine display of interest and care in the four of us was incredible. The senior/junior chefs from the Regina branch and Saskatoon branch were incredible, I know how grateful we all were to have the opportunity to connect with other chefs outside of our home branches. These are professional friendships that will follow us through the rest of our careers.
Above all else, the biggest impact this exchange had on me was that it led me right to my next career endeavour. We spent two days staging at Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar in Regina. Two days was all it took, I was hooked. This restaurant exuded talent, passion, integrity, and an emphasis on locally sourced products. It was greatly inspiring and I knew, after just 2 short days, this was somewhere I needed to be. Under the guidance of Chef Jonathan Thauberger and Sous Chef James Hanna, we continue to strive for excellence along with a heavy emphasis on learning and pushing yourself. I consider myself extremely lucky to work with a group of people who are so passionate about food, it’s a dream come true. Something that gets said often is “It’s all about the plate!” These are 5 great words to live by.
In closing, all of this was made possible by the culinary exchange which wouldn’t have happened without the continued support of the CCFCC and Saputo. This program is inspiring and changing the lives of our young culinarians year after year. I am proud to say that I am a part of a national organization that brings chefs and cooks together to continually learn from and inspire each other.
Please visit our Facebook page Culinary Exchange 2015 for some great pictures and write ups that we posted throughout our adventures! To other juniors out there, don’t hesitate to apply for this once in a lifetime opportunity, you will not regret it!
Congratulations to our very own, CCFCC Windsor Junior Member Melanie!
She is a Chopped Canada Champion!
Melanie was featured on Chopped Canada’s Season 3, Episode 9 called: “Duelling Over Devilled Eggs”
I’m from a little town in Northern Ontario that literally has one corner store. I have lived in the country most of my life and have enjoyed every
minute of it. My favourite part is the peacefulness, space and I can have a vegetable garden as large as I want.
A little about yourself?
I always wanted to follow a career in policing, it seemed it was calling. However I have always loved food and cooking and gardening. It was in 2007 on my honeymoon to Kelowna, BC that changed my mind. I have thought about a career in cooking as well but never acted on it. It was on that trip that I fell in love with food. The culture of food and wine in Kelowna was inspiring and fresh. Something I had never experienced before. I made the decision then cooking was something I needed to follow.
How long have you been cooking and what inspired you to be a cook?
At 30 years old I returned to school in 2010, the Culinary Management program at Georgian College, Barrie Ontario. I have been working in professional kitchens now since 2011 so that’s 5 years now. I have loved every min of it. It was defiantly was I should have been doing 15 years ago but everything happens at the right time in your life. I was one of the first 4 jr chefs to participate in the Saputo Culinary Exchange program in 2012, which took me back to Kelowna, BC it’s like the universe was telling me this is your path. Going back there and working in the kitchens we dined at on our Honeymoon was something I never thought possible. If I didn’t go back to school when I did it may not have happened. Funny how life works out.
Why did your apply to be on Chopped Canada?
I have competed in the CCFCC junior provincial competition, competed twice in the Barry Callebeaut Chocolate Competition in College and have always thought you need to push your self into uncomfortable to learn and grow. This was another one of those moments. My former Chef had competed on the show in season 2 and I thought why not, I have nothing to loose and could gain so much from the experience. So I said do it, it’s a challenge and win or loose you will learn something.
In one word, describe your experience on the show? Validating. When you change careers at my age, you always wonder if your doing the right thing. Hearing Chef Antonio Park say “keep on cooking, keep on rocking” at the end of the chopped episode was amazing, validating I was doing the right thing!
If you could do it over again, any changes?
No I don’t think so. I’m a pretty calm person that can react quickly. There’s always technical things I may have changed do to the world of Tv and filming but overall no, oh maybe not try and set the kitchen on fire but that was for the fun of the show! Lol
Life after the show?
It takes so long for the show to air, almost 8 months since filming. I really wanted to focus on a catering business but then had a surprise and found out we were expecting our second child after the show. So now I’m just taking it day by day and hope I can get the business going soon. Just like everything else, it will work
Out when it’s supposed to.
Advice to those who are considering to compete?
Never think you can’t do something, you will never know unless you try. Every time you challenge yourself it will help you grow. If it’s not a successful outcome that’s ok too. Just take what you learned and improve. That’s the thing about this field there’s always something to learn and it will never change.
If you have any questions for Melanie, please feel free to email her at here