Culinary Arts student wins national competition

March 28, 2012 - 9:30am

Vancouver Island University Culinary Arts student Elycia Ross won national bragging rights in the USA Rice Federation’s Culinary Student Recipe Competition.

She won first place, a cheque for $1,500 and a trophy for her Mango Chicken Barbeque Rice recipe, which she prepared for a panel of judges last weekend in Toronto.

It was Ross’s second Culinary victory in two weeks. Before competing in Toronto, she won Grand Gold at the BC Chefs Hot Live Competition in Vancouver, an event that draws some of BC’s top talent.
“I’ve loved cooking ever since I was a young girl,” says Ross, a student in VIU’s Culinary Arts program since August 2011. “Instead of cartoons, I was tuned into the Food Network. I was fascinated by the chefs I saw on television. I got a part-time job at the Coombs Bakery and decided to pursue cooking as a career by taking VIU’s culinary arts program.”

Ross, representing western Canada, and two other finalists from central and eastern Canada, showcased their culinary skills during the intense, hour-long contest.

The competition was launched in September 2011, following a national call-out challenging culinary students to create Canada’s best rice recipe. Each of the more than 50 recipes submitted was carefully evaluated by Chef Stefan Czapalay (Certified Chef de Cuisine) based on a variety of criteria. Finalists, including Ross from VIU, Jordan Rusk from Fleming College, Peterborough, Ontario; and Melissa Drutz from George Brown College, Toronto, Ontario, were invited to compete in the cook off event.

“Culinary competitions are a great way for students to put their culinary skills, knowledge and stamina to the test before they embark on their careers,” says Chef Czapalay. “This competition gave students a hard dose of reality, replicating the intensity and stress that one experiences in a professional kitchen. It takes years of hard work, focus and physical endurance to be a successful chef.”

A judging panel of successful culinary professionals critiqued the students’ recipes. Student finalists had one hour to re-create their recipes, during which time they were observed by the judges and scored on their ability to maintain a clean work station and display of culinary finesse.

Judges sampled each dish and applied a final score based on a variety of criteria including presentation, aroma, creative use of US rice and flavour.

After much deliberation, the judges declared Ross the winner. The second place prize of $500 was awarded to Rusk from Fleming College for his Southwestern Buffalo Cheesy Rice Balls recipe. The third place prize of $250 went to Drutz from George Brown College in Toronto for her Black and White Coconut Pancakes with Tropical Fruit Compote recipe.

“All the competitors should be very proud of what they accomplished,” said Chef Czapalay. “I was so impressed with their culinary skills and the high level of professionalism displayed. This competition confirmed that Canada’s culinary instructors are doing a remarkable job preparing their students for a successful career in the food service industry.”

Ross’s culinary future looks just as bright as her competition success. She has already secured a co-operative education job at the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff, Alberta in June 2012. She looks forward to honing her culinary skills and eventually opening her own 50s style restaurant.

For more information about VIU’s Culinary Arts program, go to

For Ross’s Mango Chicken Barbeque Rice recipe, go to

Tags: In the Community

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