Culinary Competition Judge: Kyle Preston

Kyle Preston offers up some advice to the competitors for the Culinary Apprentice of the Year Award.

Helping others to learn and improve has been at the heart of Kyle Preston’s career growth, and as an Apprenticeship Advisor for the Industry Training Authority (ITA) and Red Seal chef, his training and interests have given him some varied and interesting experiences.

On November 2, his expertise and background are bringing him to Vancouver Community College as a kitchen judge in the 2019 Culinary Apprentice of the Year competition, where he’ll be rating the skills of 11 participants from across B.C.

His own culinary adventure began by working in a kitchen on a work experience program which led into a youth apprenticeship. This put Kyle on the path to becoming a Red Seal chef, eventually working in restaurants, hotels, and resorts. 

Over time, he found his real interest within the hospitality industry—mentoring and training new talent—which led him out of the kitchen and back into the classroom and eventually to ITA.

“Working with my hands really appealed to me along with the multi-tasking, variety, and creativity in the kitchen,” Kyle explained. “Working with a diverse group of people kept me going because there’s so many creative people in that industry. We’d talk, compare, compete against each other. Over time, I realized that I was a natural instructor, which is what led me to get more education around training and development.”

Kyle can empathize with the competitors, because he competed while still working as a chef—an experience that turned out to be much different than he’d expected.

“The idea was to bring your sous chef, to let them shine, and compete as a two-person team, but shortly before the competition and after preparing for months designing a menu requiring four hands, my sous chef fell ill. The judges told me to do it alone,” said Kyle. “Needing a second pair of hands, I enlisted a part-time housekeeper from where I worked; I trained her up in just a few days. At that point, it wasn’t about winning—it never was—it turned into ‘the show must go on; let’s just get the plates out on time.’”

And, how did it go? “At best, everything went out on time.”

As a kitchen judge, he’ll be keeping a close eye on the critical basics of commercial cooking: organizational skills, food safety, and cleanliness.  

“I’m really excited about helping support and encourage tomorrow’s chefs and instilling their desire to keep moving forward and grow the necessary skills for organization, food safety, and cost-effectiveness.”

His advice to the competitors is simple. “Breathe. You’ve practiced already; focus on the steps.”

The Culinary Apprentice of the Year is sponsored by Chefs’ Table Society of BC, Vancouver Community College, and Industry Training Authority, along with BC Chefs Association, North Vancouver Island Chefs Association, Okanagan Chefs Association, and Victoria Chefs Association. Additional partners include Russell Hendrix, Intercity Packers, Gindara Sablefish, Cacao Barry, Cactus Club Cafe, Cascadia Tableware, Icon Fine Wines & Spirits, Chef & Co, and House of Knives.

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