A young Comox Valley chef who represented British Columbia at the Skills Canada National Competition finished on the podium with a bronze medal performance.
Ella Oldaker competed at the secondary level in the Cooking category during the competition which took place in Winnipeg May 25 and 26. The Skills Canada National Competition is a national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices in the country.
In April, Oldaker, alongside Ellianna Dyble, took home gold from the Skills Canada British Columbia Provincials 2023. The pair work together at Locals at the Old House - Oldaker as a first-year cook apprentice.
“I was very surprised - I didn’t expect it at all,” she said. “It was definitely the first time I’ve done anything like that. There were 1,300 people in the room and walking into it was certainly a stressful environment.”
Win Ni of Ontario took the gold medal spot followed by Brock Story of Quebec with a silver medal.
The two-day competition had the chefs create a variety of dishes in a timed three-and-a-half-hour window. On the first day, Oldaker was tasked to present veggie cuts, a brown sauce and a dish with ingredients indigenous to Canada. On the second day, competitors were required to create a burger with a potato side and a brownie with a fruit sauce.
The chefs were judged on a variety of factors including safety/sanitization, organization, a posted work plan, taste and presentation and their ability to write a menu and follow through with the presentation.
Oldaker explained all food had to be made on-site and credited the preparation and support she received from a variety of mentors to her strong performance.
The Mark R. Isfeld Secondary school student worked closely with Tammy Williamson, the school’s HomeEc and Train in Trades instructor, to practice for the competition.
“She helped me as well to get to the regionals and is just amazing,” she added.
Oldaker also received support from Chef Xavier Bauby at North Island College’s Culinary Arts program, former Locals founder Chef Ronald St. Pierre, current Locals partner and Chef Jonathan Frazier and Lesley Stav of the North Vancouver Island Culinary Association.
As for her next steps, Oldaker is set to spend the summer travelling and working in Europe. Eventually, she hopes to pursue an education in environmental studies with the goal to combine her culinary skills to work in the field of sustainable food practices.