Mature students cook up career changes

Two students in Vancouver Island University’s culinary arts program have the winning recipe on how to cook up a career change.

Vancouver Island University culinary arts students Wes Carter

Vancouver Island University culinary arts students Wes Carter

Two students in Vancouver Island University’s culinary arts program have the winning recipe on how to cook up a career change.

“Just do it,” says Wes Carter, a former painting contractor who hung up his brush after 27 years.

Rod Fedosoff, a former salesman at Home Depot said you won’t regret it.

Both in their mid-50s, Fedosoff and Carter are among the newest recruits in Vancouver Island University’s 10-month culinary arts program.

“I’m having a blast,” said Carter. “I never want to paint again. Cooking is what I’m meant to do.”

Fedosoff calls losing his 17-year sales job “a blessing in disguise”.

“It provided the opportunity to try something totally different,” he said. “I love cooking and have always cooked for my wife and kids.

“Now I’m thinking about combining my love of cycling with cooking, maybe through the vineyards in the Cowichan Valley. That’s my dream.”

Fedosoff admits  returning to school as a mature student is challenging.

“I haven’t studied for tests or done homework since high school 30 years ago,” he said. “The average age of my classmates is 18. I felt a little strange on my first day.”

However,  four months into the program, Fedosoff loves working with the younger students.

“I enjoy being on the front line in the cafeteria,” he said. “The atmosphere is exciting and invigorating. It feels great to get my mind active again and learn something new.”

Carter considered a career in cooking while in high school, but got caught up in other interests.  After 27 years as a contract painter, he wanted a change. He handed out dozens of resumés but nobody called back due to his lack of credentials.

That’s when he looked at VIU’s culinary arts program. “Taking the program makes sense,” said Carter. “I’m passionate about food. I was a single dad for years and always cooked for my daughter.

“I’m now married to a food activist who is part of the slow food movement in the Cowichan Valley. We grow our own food and have operated a small farm for five years. I’m learning skills to produce value-added food products for my farm and that’s exciting.”

For Carter, the hardest part about returning to school was not knowing how to speak French or use a computer.

“Learning to cook is like learning a new language. So many cooking terms are French,” he said.

Challenges aside, Carter advises anyone thinking about a career change to take the leap.

“It’s worth it,” he said. “Being back in school opens doors and stimulates your brain. On top of that, it’s fun. I fully expect to get a job out of this. Trained cooks are in demand.”

Fedosoff  has one final piece of advice for anyone contemplating a career change.

“Nobody should end their working life with regrets,” he said. “Put a plan together, get out of your comfort zone and follow your passion.”

For further information about the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island, please visit www.viu.ca/culinary.