Vancouver culinary students face the heat in Thailand

Windermere students spend spring break learning culture, cuisine

A trip taken by East Side students over spring break took them further afield than one might expect.

Nine Windermere Grade 12 culinary students flew to Thailand with their teacher and school chef to attend cooking school.

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The elephant riding was my most favourite part because its something that no one ever gets to do, said 17-year-old student Vincent Tan, who had never even ridden a horse.

Tan liked trying a cooking style that was new to him, in a smaller kitchen than he was used to and in the country from where the cuisine originated.

Thai cooking is a lot of prep work, Tan said. When you actually do cook, its only two seconds worth of cooking. Its really fast.

This was the first year students in the ACE-IT cook training program, which offers students their first year of post-secondary training in high school at Windermere, took such a trip. The program is offered at four Vancouver high schools.

Weve talked about going on trips in the past, said culinary instructor Shirley Wong. Were an East Side school. The kids either didnt have the money or they didnt have the right documentation to travel outside.

But the ingredients needed to travel came together this year. Students paid $1,500 to travel with the additional $1,000 to $1,100 needed per student paid for from proceeds of the programs catering revenue and fundraising that included a gingerbread competition and selling baked treats for Valentines Day.

The group travelled almost 24 hours from Collingwood to Koh Samui on March 15. They embarked on a jungle safari, cooked at the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts, visited Bangkok for three days and returned to Vancouver March 26.

I had three students who had never even be on an airplane before, so this was just a huge eye opener for them, Wong said.

She said students learned they could use culinary training to obtain jobs elsewhere in the world. They got to experience and see things that they would not normally be able to do, to ride an elephant, to have a monkey sit on your shoulder, to sit on a boat and travel down a little river buying vegetables, she added. These are just things that we just dont see in Vancouver.

The students will soon flaunt their new knowledge and skills for local chefs at one of the three chef table events they hold each year.

Tan couldnt believe the spicy heat of some Thai food and was impressed by the unwavering respect for culture and tradition shown by the Thai instructors.

Tan has applied for the culinary arts program at Vancouver Community College but he hopes to first get an apprenticeship in a Vancouver restaurant and attain certification as a Red Seal chef.

Tan had previously travelled to China and Japan but hadnt considered that a career as a chef could take him abroad.

He expects Vancouver to remain his home base but would now consider spending time overseas to learn about different cuisines.

The heat down there [in Thailand], I dont really do that well, he said. I cant really tolerate heat, but in the kitchen I can.

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