Meet the Chef: Keenan Martens

Keenan Martens looks forward to showcasing his techniques during the Culinary Apprentice of the Year competition.

It was the beauty and bounty of Vancouver Island that first put Keenan Martens on the path to his culinary career. After growing up in Calgary, he moved to Victoria as an adult and fell in love with the farm-to-table movement.

One of the participants from across B.C. who will be putting their skills to the test during the Culinary Apprentice of the Year competition on November 2, Keenan only realized that he had a passion for cooking when he was surrounded by the abundance of the Island.

“Being at the farmers’ markets here made me realize how beautiful food is and the abundance around us,” said Keenan, a cook at Café Brio in Victoria. “I definitely started to cook more and learn more about vegetables and things that I’d never eaten before. I loved it by the ocean and being outdoors.”

A former hockey player, Keenan’s been spending the past few years trying to grow and improve his culinary skills, learning about ingredients and new techniques. He’s completed the Culinary Arts program at Vancouver Island University and sees the competition as a great opportunity to see what he’s really capable of.

“Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been getting comfortable and thought it was a great opportunity to further my career and challenge myself, push myself out of my comfort zone and market myself.”

Keenan’s looking forward to competing against peers whom he wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to interact with and who are at same stage in their career as he is. He said the competition will help him compare where he’s at in terms of skill sets and make new connections because it’s important to build a community around culinary and people with whom you might cross paths in the future.

As he prepares to compete, Keenan will be deciding which techniques he wants to showcase, hone in on his timing and execution, make sure that he’s using his time wisely, and not leave anything on the table.

He’s found inspiration in his career from chefs like Dan Barber of Blue Hill Farm, who is a farm-to-table proponent and is changing the approach to cooking with new techniques and sustainability. Keenan hopes that participating in the competition adds another layer of experience and skill sets that will help put him on the path to owning the kind of the restaurant he’d like to have someday.

“I’m still new to the culinary industry. I’ve really only been cooking a few years and shifting my whole life’s focus from hockey, so there’s still so much I want to explore,” said Keenan. “It’s exciting, the endless possibilities that come with food.”

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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