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NANAIMO, BC: Vancouver Island University (VIU) Culinary Arts program graduate Perry Assu is living his dream. For fun, he snowboards down some of the finest slopes in the world at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort and for work, he cooks up fine culinary creations in the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
Assu, 19, who has wanted to be a chef since he was 12, started working at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler last June. He loves the fast pace of the kitchen there, and the fact that he’s learning constantly. Living the resort lifestyle in Whistler is an added bonus.
“I love living in Whistler!” he says. “The snowboarding in the winter is phenomenal and there are endless hikes to do all summer. Living in Whistler, I’ve had the chance to meet so many people from around the world, and I’ve made many lifelong friends.”
Assu, along with two other VIU Culinary Arts graduates, Matthew McCamon and Jacinto Bevilacqua, were initially hired on at the Fairmont Chateau as co-op students last summer. They earned the chance to stay on as apprentices after their co-op work term ended by proving their worth in the kitchen.
“We are a very busy brigade here, but the VIU program prepared me well for the reality of hotel cooking – the long hours and the heavy workload,” says Assu. “All of my instructors gave me valuable advice that came into play when I got this job. I plan to never leave Fairmont as a company – it’s my goal to one day work my way up the ranks to become an executive chef of a Fairmont hotel
Bevilacqua, 19, got his start in the Culinary Arts program while he was still in high school through the dual-credit program, which allows high school students to simultaneously work towards completing their high school diploma and post-secondary certification by receiving dual credits for their post-secondary coursework.
“My favourite part of the job is meeting so many new people and interacting with customers,” he says.
Bevilacqua became a chef because he enjoys cooking and wants to share the experience with others. He says VIU’s Culinary Arts program gave him the base knowledge and mass production experience that helped him earn the job at Fairmont. Bevilacqua plans to stay at the Fairmont Chateau at least three years. His long-term goal is to become a teacher.
“I encourage anyone who is interested in a career as a chef to go through the program,” he says. “I enjoyed it, and it helped me get this position!”
McCamon, also a dual-credit student who did the Culinary Arts program in his final year of high school, says the best part of the VIU program is the doors it opens up to go to new and exciting places – after spending three years at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, he plans to follow his girlfriend to Australia to work at a hotel there.
“Without the co-op part of the VIU Culinary program, I would have never have been able to get this much experience at such a young age,” he says. “I thought that I would be missing out on a lot of things in the last year of high school, but the experiences I had thanks to VIU are so much more valuable.”
Assu also has no regrets about enrolling in VIU’s Culinary Arts program. “The opportunities are endless, as my career path shows,” he says. “My advice to current students: apply for any job you want even if you think it’s out of your league – I did and got a rewarding career out of it!”