The Culinary Institute of Canada welcomes guest Chef Warren Barr
Original Article by Sara Underwood for Holland College
Although Tofino, B.C. and Charlottetown, P.E.I. are about as far apart as two communities can get and still be part of the same country, there are more similarities than differences between the two island towns, making the 75-room Wickaninnish Inn a natural fit for students and graduates of The Culinary Institute of Canada.
Chef Warren Barr, Executive Chef at The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn, spent five summers as executive chef at the Inn at Bay Fortune, in P.E.I., before making his way west. He says the experience helped him to define principles of culinary integrity to which he has adhered ever since.
“At The Inn at Bay Fortune, we had a ‘strictly Canadian’ policy, and worked almost exclusively with local and regional farmers and producers. It gives you an accountability for what’s on the plate. As a chef, you develop a respect for the ingredients when you know the individuals who produce them. You’re a lot less likely to be wasteful with ingredients when you understand how much time and effort someone put into growing them.”
During his summers on P.E.I., Chef Warren developed an interest in The Culinary Institute of Canada, and gained an appreciation for the way the chef instructors prepared students for the profession.
“The students and graduates come into the kitchen ready to roll up their sleeves and take on any task that they are given. They don’t have ‘great expectations’ about where they will fit in the kitchen hierarchy. They are prepared to work hard and learn as much as they can from the rest of the team,” he says.
Chef Warren was back in P.E.I. last weekend to discuss employment opportunities with students seeking summer internships and those preparing to graduate this spring. He brought the Wickaninnish Inn’s Human Resource Manager, Melody McLorie with him.
Melody says the CIC’s students have an exceptional level of talent, and the way the semesters work at the college means that they can stay in their internships until the end of the busy season, whereas students from other cooking schools return to the classroom at the end of August, leaving their employers short-staffed for the busy fall months.
The Wickaninnish Inn employs up to 160 staff and provides staff housing for as many as 88.
“Tofino has a population of about 1,800, so finding housing in the summer would be difficult. We’ve purchased several homes in the area, and set them up as staff residences,” Melody explains.
Each house has a staff member who oversees the daily functioning of the house, sort of a residence assistant, ensuring that everything runs as smoothly as possible in these communal living spaces.
Tofino is not for everyone, Melody adds. The town is five hours north west of Victoria, Vancouver Island, and about three hours from Nanaimo, so access to some amenities is limited. But, as Chef Warren points out, if you’re into bonfires on the beach, and hiking around the beautiful Pacific Northwest, it may be just the place for you.