Meet The Chef: Raul Copete Vazquez
Growing up in Spain, Raul Copete Vazquez’s recollection of simple foods shared with family evokes the strongest memories.
Raul is 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. He travelled the world looking for inspiration in his career and finally turned his love for food into a life in the culinary arts in Canada.
“When I was in my 20s, I went to a Michelin star restaurant in my region for the first time—that blew my mind, but it’s not ingrained in my memory,” Raul explained.
“What’s ingrained is the way my dad ate fried eggs with chorizo and vinegar. Or, the roasted peppers we’d make into a salad with raw garlic. It’s the simple things that I grew up eating."
"Because I’ve travelled for the last 10 years, it opened my culinary world in an amazing way. There are so many brilliant things out there, but I go back to my childhood memories—how my dad would make and eat eggs will always be there.”
Originally a civil engineer, during his travels to Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, Raul found that finding work in hospitality as a barista or front of house was far easier than finding engineering jobs. It was his Canadian wife, Suzanne, who finally pushed him to turn his love of food into a career.
After working for six months in an Irish pub in Vancouver, Raul took the plunge and signed up to take the Professional Cook training at Vancouver Community College, quickly followed by his Level 2 and 3. He’s currently a cook at the Hart House Restaurant in Burnaby, where he has implemented what he has learned during his studies and expanded his culinary skills.
“I made the decision to become a cook when my wife encouraged me,” said Raul. “I have memories of my mom cooking and my grandma cooking and my dad taking us to a fancy restaurant because he knew I’d love it. A big part of what I love is the science behind cooking, perhaps because I’m a civil engineer. My goal in the long run is to become an instructor or to pursue a career in nutrition or food science.”
While Raul prepares for the upcoming competition, his goal is to get out of his comfort zone, do research, and learn. It’s his first culinary competition and he’s aiming to do his best and push himself harder than he might normally.
“I’m hoping to have an amazing experience, to feel the pressure, fear, and joy,” Raul said. “Competitions like this make chefs push themselves—particularly new chefs—to keep searching. We need to remember there’s a lot to learn, and a lot’s been done that we should be aware of.”
While recognizing that he still has room to learn and grow, Raul does have long term plans for his culinary career—which, of course, includes family.
“I’d love to see myself in 10 years either teaching or running a restaurant, something related to food for sure, perhaps studying food science, maybe having my daughter helping me,” said Raul. “I do see how hard it can be to run a restaurant, but it would be a dream to have a small café or a bistro and have my family be a part of it.”
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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