Monday, 21 April 2014, 6:07 am

Niagara College represents Canada at 2016 Culinary Olympics

Back row from left to right: Dan Leblanc, Olaf Mertens, Osvaldo Avilia, Katrina Young, David Ross, Scott McInerney, Iain Dawson, Trevor Littlejohn, Rebekka Schmitt, Wesley Lund, Jeremy Gilligan. Front row from left to right: Avi Hollo, Ruth Bleijerveld, and Philippe Corbiere. Absent from the photo are Megan Proper and Brittany Calsavara. PHOTO BY COLLIN STACHURABy NICK FEARNS
Staff Writer
With the Sochi games approaching this February, many are glued to the television in anticipation of the Winter Olympics, but The Canadian Food and Wine Institute at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus is looking forward to a different set of games, the 2016 Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany.
A team from Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI) has won the title of Junior Culinary Team Canada and the rights to represent Canada for the next three years. The CFWI team participated in a three-day event at George Brown College in Toronto where they competed against teams from Humber College of Toronto and Holland College, of Prince Edward Island.
“It will not sink in until they arrive in Germany in three years,” says Craig Youdale, CFWI acting dean and team manager. “Until the day they land in Germany and check into the hotel and make their way down into the Olympic venue, it won’t become real until that happens.”
The 12-member team was selected not only due to skill, but also as to who would be able to remain committed, says Avi Hollo, one of the team coaches.
Preparation for the event in Toronto meant many hours of practice. Scott McInerney says that working 120 hours a week with 20 hours unpaid does not leave much time for a social life.
Others lost jobs, lost girlfriends and for Jeremy Gilligan it meant time away from his daughter.
“From a numbers point of view it was eight days of work to accomplish 21 hours of competition,” says Youdale, adding on the international level the complexity of the logistics will “increase exponentially.
These logistics included making sure that the team had all the ingredients needed for when the competition started.

Moving forward as Junior Culinary Team Canada means that the team will meet to practice at least once a month for the next two years, but there are other events before the Olympics in Germany.  In May 2014, there are events in Singapore and Luxembourg, and in 2015 there are events in Scotland and Berne, Switzerland.
Mark Lund, 24, says that the coaches pushed hard to keep the team motivated and focused. “On Day 1 the chefs motivated us and kept us one as a team.”
Iain Dawson says that the Toronto event “felt like another day in the kitchen” but since the day the team won he has admitted to being on “Cloud 9.”
“The opportunity to be able to represent Niagara College at the Junior Culinary Olympic trials was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The talent and dedication put forward by the competitors and coaches helped us bond us as a driven and cohesive team,” says Brittany Calsavara, a 2013 graduate of the Baker Apprentice program. “I am looking forward to challenging, learning and growing together as a team over the next three years as Team Canada.”
“There’s lots of hard work to go,” says Danielle Germund, adding that she is very proud she gets to represent her country, and the college.
With seven of 12 members working at Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Benchmark restaurant, Niagara College has a real opportunity to showcase the skill and talents of the students in the many culinary programs.  Youdale says that for the next three years there will be the Olympic tag to everything, adding that calls for Benchmark have already started.
“Everybody in the entire school from Benchmark restaurant to the president of the college has been supportive,” says Trevor Littlejohn.
The team now needs to prepare for the higher standard of judging required on the international level.
“We need the experience having the international judges beat us up,” says Olaf Mertens, one of the faculty and team coaches.
Mertens says the team is not quite at the world level in hot or cold stations, adding it has to do the work “as a second nature.”
“By 2016 we will be ready. We will definitely be prepared to do our best.”

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