Juan Villota’s business administration training in his home city of Quito, Ecuador was just the start of his educational journey.
“I’ve always loved to be involved in restaurants and hotels. My final goal is to open a restaurant with healthy food on the menu,” said Villota, who is halfway through his training at Vancouver Island University’s Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island.
After completing his business studies in Ecuador, Villota earned a post-graduate hotel management diploma in Switzerland. He then was ready to spend time in the kitchen.
“Cooking is what I needed to close the circle,” he said.
Villota went online to research culinary institutes and their reputations. In addition to VIU, he considered schools in Peru and Mexico as well as Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa.
He found VIU was the best fit for quality of education, learning environment and his budget.
“When I started searching reviews of VIU’s culinary program they were very positive. I also like Canada and I looked at other advantages such as the weather,” he said. “Now that I’m here, I’m very happy.”
Villota got hands-on experience quickly with a summer co-op stint at the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa in Victoria. There were plenty of learning opportunities working with Executive Chef Iain Rennie, an award-winning culinary arts program graduate and certified Chef de Cuisine.
“I had to get used to the speed and pressure, but everything is pretty interesting and I like it,” he said.
After his co-op experience, Villota accepted an offer to work weekends at Bear Mountain. He hasn’t had too much time off but he’s learning a lot.
Villota is one of 1,687 international students enrolled at VIU. A variety of special events are planned for International Education Week at the school, Nov. 14-18.