Culinary student wins gold

June 16, 2011 - 9:30am

A gold medal victory is a dream come true for Vancouver Island University Culinary Arts student Mei Ramos.


Ramos won Open Chef Night at the prestigious five-star Panache restaurant at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort and Spa in Victoria recently. It was her first competition.


“It was between myself and another student chef from Camosun College,” said Ramos. “The Executive Chef at the Westin gave us a menu, and we helped prepare it. It was great experience. I had a high level of confidence.”


Westin Bear Mountain Executive Chef Iain Rennie (VIU Culinary Arts alumnus and son of former chair of the Culinary program, Alex Rennie) and his marketing crew came up with a once-a-month Wednesday night Open Chef Night idea to give student chefs an opportunity to cook for a real audience under the guidance of a professional chef.


Two competing student chefs – typically one from VIU and one from Camosun - produce two menus that are offered to guests with wine pairings. At the end of the meal, a few select guests vote on the best menu and that student wins the competition.


Ramos started cooking at age 10 when she emmigrated from Hong Kong to help her sister run a Chinese restaurant in Calgary, and has worked in the restaurant industry ever since.


Ramos and her family – husband and two daughters – ran a successful restaurant in the North West territories for years before moving to Nanaimo three years ago. Now they operate Sub on the Hub, a small concession at Beban Park Recreation Centre.
She enrolled in VIU’s Culinary Arts Institute last year to learn more about cooking and menu planning.


“I really wanted to expand on what I have learned already,” said Ramos. “I wanted to learn more about techniques of cooking. My kids are 11 and 14, and they thought I was crazy going back to school. Now they’re pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished.”


Ramos is finishing her first year in VIU’s Culinary Arts Institute and looking forward to a summer co-op program at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.


“My goal is to continue expanding my knowledge of food preparation and different types of menus,” she said.
Westin Mountain Resort and Spa has been running Open Chef Night for several months.


“We’ve had many of our students compete in this unique, fun event,” says Debbie Shore, chief instructor at the Vancouver Island Culinary Arts Institute. “It gives the chosen students the opportunity to work alongside an executive chef in a five star fine dining room. They get to play with new techniques including some molecular gastronomy, often not seen in Nanaimo and area.”
Open Chef Night begins again in September. Tickets are $45 per person, plus taxes and gratuity for a three course meal. Reservations are recommended. Call 250-391-7160.



Tags: In the Community