A gold medal victory is a dream come true for Vancouver Island University culinary arts student Mei Ramos.
Ramos won Open Chef Night at the prestigious five-star Panache restaurant at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort and Spa in Victoria recently. It was her first competition.
“It was between myself and another student chef from Camosun College,” said Ramos. “The executive chef at the Westin gave us a menu, and we helped prepare it. It was great experience. I had a high level of confidence.”
Iain Rennie, Westin Bear Mountain executive chef and VIU culinary arts alumnus, and his marketing crew came up with a once-a-month Wednesday night Open Chef Night idea to give student chefs an opportunity to cook for a real audience under the guidance of a professional chef.
Two competing student chefs – typically one from VIU and one from Camosun – produce two menus that are offered to guests with wine pairings. At the end of the meal, a few select guests vote on the best menu and that student wins the competition.
Ramos started cooking at age 10 when she emigrated from Hong Kong to help her sister run a Chinese restaurant in Calgary, and has worked in the restaurant industry ever since.
Ramos and her family – husband and two daughters – ran a successful restaurant in the Northwest Territories for years before moving to Nanaimo three years ago. Now they operate Sub on the Hub concession at Beban Park.
She enrolled in VIU’s Culinary Arts Institute last year to learn more about cooking and menu planning.
“I really wanted to expand on what I have learned already,” said Ramos. “I wanted to learn more about techniques of cooking. ”
Ramos is finishing her first year at VIU and is looking forward to a summer co-op program at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
“My goal is to continue expanding my knowledge of food preparation and different types of menus,” she said.