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A career with creativity – Professional Cook training at NLC

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Food service in the Dawson Creek Campus cafeteria.

Food service in the Dawson Creek Campus cafeteria.

Rene Rennie

Rene Rennie

DAWSON CREEK – Do you enjoy creating great meals? Is preparing food for others your idea of fun? Have you ever considered owning and operating your own restaurant, café or bakery?

If you answered yes, look no further than the Professional Cook 1 program at Northern Lights College.

Graduates of the Professional Cook training program, offered at the Dawson Creek Campus, have the expertise needed to join a team of culinary professionals and obtain the necessary skills required for success in today’s fast-paced commercial and professional kitchens.

This comprehensive 20-week program will prepare you to be a professional cook who is capable, creative and on the cutting edge. The experience gained in NLC’s 20-week program provides the platform for working in a variety of commercial and professional kitchens including restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, institutions, hospitals, care centres and seniors’ residences.

“Chef Michael French is an awesome instructor. I do not think that I have ever had an instructor as good as him and that is why I am coming back to NLC to complete level two of the program. I do not want to do it with anybody else. He does not just teach you, he also helps you to grow as a person. One of the philosophies he has used on me many times is learning how to cook is more than learning how to peel an onion, it is how to walk, talk and act like a professional cook,” said Megan Burke, a 2013 Cook Training graduate, who is currently a chef de partie at a Dawson Creek restaurant.

Megan Burke

Megan Burke

The Professional Cook Level 2 program is scheduled at NLC starting in March.

The Cook programs are offered in a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art training facility that includes two kitchens and bakeshop and pastry lab. Training starts with the fundamental skills of food preparation, including knife skills; processing and preparing vegetables and meat; and making salads, sandwiches, pastries, baked goods and desserts. As students progress, hands-on training ensures students are introduced to correct production procedures, menu planning, ordering and inventory, quality ingredient selection, nutrition, and human resource management.

Students also prepare daily specials and operate the North Star Grill short order kitchen, as part of the Dawson Creek Campus cafeteria. The cafeteria is open weekdays to the public, students and College employees.

“Students who come to Northern Lights College have many great opportunities to go to different establishments and work in areas where they can specialize. The program not only covers quite a wide spectrum of foundational skills, it also gives students the opportunity to get out there during special events and see how varied the program really is in this industry. I see students every day who love succeeding in this exciting industry,” said Michael French, MA, the program instructor, a Red Seal-certified Cook, and a Certified Chef de Cuisine.

Michael French and Regan King

Michael French and Regan King

Chef French is joined by Chef Regan King, a Red Seal-certified Pastry Chef who instructs the baking component of the Level 1 program.

“To be a good pastry chef, you need an understanding of the scientific principles behind your craft.  You will be using perishable and fragile foods and will need to understand the biology of food safety. There is a chemical basis for the way certain foods are combined. You also need to know the basics of design – how to create visually appealing desserts,” said King.

According to Service Canada, job prospects for Professional Cook graduates are very good with the number of chefs in the profession in Canada increasing significantly. For student René Rennie, who had worked as a hairstylist for 30 years, it was this positive future that led her to enrol in the program when she was looking for a career change.

“I tried camp cooking. I realized I liked doing it and there was a great future for me in this career if I continued with it. But I also needed to learn a lot more about cooking if I was to succeed in this trade. I was passable but I wanted to be more than just passable. I wanted to do this program here because of Chef Michael French. If I was going to learn this trade, it was going to be with the best,” said Rennie.

The next intake of Professional Cook Level 1 starts on February 3, and the Level 2 program starts in March. Seats are still available in both programs. For more information or to start the admissions process, go to, contact Campus Services at any NLC campus, call toll free 1-866-463-6652, or contact Admissions Officer Megan Reitsma.

A day in Professional Cook Level 1

8:30 am: Theory and lab classes – preparation for module exams as well as practical production for that week.

9 am: Morning briefing with the Chef Instructor.

9:15 am: Move to the kitchen to prepare daily lunch specials for the cafeteria. Menus are assigned two to three weeks in advance, and each student knows the foodstuffs s/he is responsible for preparing each day.

11:30 am: Lunch service begins.

12:30 pm: Lunch service ends. Clean-up begins.

1:30 pm: Lunch break for students, followed by any remaining clean-up. Once clean-up is done, preparation begins for the next day, along with debriefing on the day’s activities with the Chef Instructor.