VIU Baking Students Head to Belize for Two-week Baking Field School

Alisa Campbell, left, and Eve Barrieau are among the nearly two dozen students and faculty heading to Belize for a two-week baking field school next week. They are looking for donations of school supplies to give to a school they are visiting while there. Donations can be dropped off at the Lower and Upper Cafeterias until May 1.

April 27, 2017 - 1:30pm

Nearly two dozen students and faculty from VIU and two other institutions go to Belize May 2-14 to learn more about key ingredients bakers use every day

Learning how to make chocolate from scratch is something Eve Barrieau never thought she’d get the chance to do, but in a week, the VIU Professional Baking and Pastry Arts student will be doing just that – in Belize.

Barrieau, 21, from Ladysmith, is going on a two-week baking field school in Belize organized by Chef Ken Harper, one of the program’s instructors.

“Making chocolate is something most people in our area of the world never get to do,” she says. “It’s going be a very special, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m looking forward to the whole trip, taking it all in and learning from it. I hope to learn a bit more about myself and figure out some of my hopes and dreams while I’m there.”

VIU students have been fundraising all year, holding bake sales in both cafeterias on campus, to help raise the funds to go. Nearly two dozen students and faculty from VIU, Red River College in Manitoba and North West Community College in Terrace, BC, are going to the Central American country for a combination of culinary and cultural experiences.

The culinary adventures include touring a banana plantation and rum distillery, bakery visits, a spice farm tour, making chocolate and traditional corn tortillas, and learning coffee bean roasting techniques. Participants will also visit some Mayan ruins, go hiking in the jungle, swim in caves, and watch traditional dancing and musical performances.

Alisa Campbell, a VIU Baking student from Victoria who plans to specialize in cakes when she finishes the program, is also excited to visit the Belize Zoo, which exhibits more than 125 animals native to Belize, including jaguars, howler monkeys, iguanas and crocodiles.

“It’s the trip of a lifetime, but not one I would have been able to plan on my own,” she says. “I think we’ll also get to relax a bit because it’s already planned, so we’ll get to just go down and soak it all in without worrying about what to do and when.”

Both Barrieau and Campbell are excited to see how some of the items they use in class every day are grown and processed.

“It makes you care more about and value your food more, knowing where it comes from,” says Barrieau, who plans to open her own bakery one day.

“This kind of knowledge and experience could give us an edge in our careers – we’ll be able to speak about it to clients,” adds Campbell.

Harper says the trip is a fantastic way to wrap up the 10-month program and it also allows students to see where key ingredients in the program’s curriculum come from.

“The items we use on a daily basis like sugar, chocolate, coffee, spices and vanilla don’t grow in Canada, they come from tropical areas of the world,” he says. “To have that appreciation of how it’s grown, and meeting the farmers and producers, is really a very cathartic experience. There’s more awareness now about how things are being grown, and great interest in free trade items and ingredients grown in ethical situations. It’s an eye-opening opportunity like no other." 

Harper first went to Belize in 2014 to redo the dessert menu at Belcampo Lodge in Punta Gorda. Afterwards, he stayed and toured the area, developing the connections he would need to take the first field school there the following year.

“The culinary aspect is the focus, but we found in 2015 that the cultural experience and the cultural exchange became as important and as enjoyable as the educational part,” says Harper. “As you learn about other cultures, you also learn a lot about yourself.”

While the students are down there, they will also be connecting with two of the Belizean graduate students who have come to study at VIU through the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program. One of the students, Kenny Williams, will give students a tour of the Punta Gorda village market, which happens two or three times per week. They will meet the other student, Shirley Humes, in Placencia, a beach resort town on the Caribbean coast of Belize.

VIU’s Baking Program organizes a field school every year for both Baking and Culinary Arts students. Next up is France and Brussels in February 2018, where students will get to attend a giant bread and pastry-making exhibition in Paris and tour bakeries, patisseries and baking schools.

The Baking and Pastry Arts program is accepting admissions for the next intake of students in late August. Click here for more information. 

Tags: Teaching and Learning

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