So you want to be a chef?
Camrose cook Chance Euren has just completed culinary school and is now plying his new-found trade at Hart House. Supplied
Ever wondered what it takes to be a chef? Many of us are amateurs and our target audience (family, friends) enjoy our meals and compliment the “chef” on a wonderful meal. But to actually get a diploma in culinary arts and be able to make all sorts of meals, pastries, desserts, and serve meals non-stop from a commercial kitchen — that's some serious business that not all of us get to dabble in!
Chance Euren has had dreams of being a chef since he was 10 years old. This month, he graduates with his diploma in culinary arts and after being in Edmonton for two attending NAIT, and has decided to return to his roots in Camrose to start his cooking career. Euren is currently working on his red seal, which he should have in another year or so. A red seal chef has to put in 1,570 apprenticeship hours per year which is equivalent to 10 months of full-time work.
Euren worked his way thru school. With a lot of time and commitment, he worked full time as a cook at Edmonton restaurants while doing his schooling. A typical school day entailed waking up at 5 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. bus. His school day ran from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then straight to work from 3-10 or 11pm. After he got home from work he’d still need to get homework done and catch some sleep before the next day. This gave him a good indication about what life as a chef would be like. Long days, few breaks and a hectic schedule. Euren says he’s very fortunate to be working in his field in Camrose where he has family and friends, and in a community with a nicer pace.
Chatting with Euren about cooking in some cases felt like I needed a dictionary to translate some of the things he was talking about. He has an entire textbook of cooking definitions. Who knew there was such a science to the art of cooking? Not just ingredients, but processes, and tools, and techniques!
Each student in his class had to purchase two kits, a small wares kit and a knife kit. These kits are a chef’s tool of the trade, and he stressed the importance of having high quality tools in your kitchen. A sign of a trained chef is the number of scars on his hands from all the knife nicks over the years. Euren has already had a few major ones.
I was impressed about the broad spectrum of things he learned through the culinary arts program at NAIT. In his first year he learned the fundamentals, how to taste, how to season, charcuterie boards, range and meats, how to temp a steak, stewing, braising, and how to make classical soups and sauces. As expected, they learned about food safety and the danger zones for meat temperatures.
Ironically, like the mechanic who never fixes his car, Euren mentioned that he didn’t eat well while he was in school. He ate typical college kids foods, didn’t have time to make the gourmet he learned in school, but instead lived on quick, cheap, and easy to prep.
When asked what he loves about the work, he said he likes when he gets to be creative in his cooking, and his favourite part is when he hears from guests or restaurant patrons that the food was good. At Hart House where he currently works, if you enjoy the food you can ring the bell so the cooks know. Hearing that bell ring makes his day and he knows that what he’s doing is appreciated. When Euren decided to return to Camrose he was hoping to get a job where he can use his creativity, continue learning, and get some good experience. At Hart House he works under chef Kyle Guerin as a line cook. Eurex said he has a lot of respect for his new mentor.
At NAIT he had the opportunity to learn each year from the chef in residence. He really appreciated the perspectives and the wealth of experience the chef in residence brought to the students. In the same way, currently Euren gets to learn from Guerin as they work together in the same kitchen creating incredible menu items for patrons to enjoy.
In his second year of school, Euren learned about sugar sculpting, bread sculpting, patisseries, desserts and baking. In this area the students were allowed to taste everything, which was nice. They also studied International cooking. These they all got to taste test, and Euren found it was a good experience as he was always making something he’d never made before.
His favorite go-to meal are hamburgers. It felt great in my opinion knowing that someone who can make the fanciest food whenever they want would still enjoy the little things, like hamburgers.
When he is making fancy food, his current favourite to prepare is chicken paprikash. This recipe is one he learned in school and will just continue improving it as he goes along.
Euren says with a good attitude and a readiness to learn anyone can do what he does. He’s excited to make Camrose his home again, and serve the patrons of Camrose some excellent food.