Bakers at the Skills BC Regional Competition
Faces of Trades: Cooking up a career
You’re funny Quang… and wise. People always say “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, but it goes both ways. The way to anyone’s heart is through the stomach, so let’s get cooking.
In North America, being a chef is no longer a blue-collar “default job” but a desirable career. Without them, I would not be doing this, and I am incredibly grateful to have met so many talented chefs along the way.
It is pretty amazing how far the title “chef” has come. It is to the point where I do not even know if I’m being disrespectful for not using it. Titles are titles and they might not mean anything to some people, but regardless the idea of a chef isn’t what it once was. It is a new generation, and thanks to inspiring chefs, the rising public interest in food, and food media, cooking is no longer just cooking. It has become a culture of celebrity chefs, cooking competitions, vibrant dining options, food blogs, and more. It’s an expression of creativity as well as a survival skill and I support and encourage it all the way. After all, my work is really based on their work.
Whoever said cooking was a dead end job probably grew up eating horrible food.
Quang is the executive chef at the award-winning fine dining restaurant, West. Chef Dang originally came to Vancouver to continue his engineering degree and fulfill his dream to train for Canada’s national field hockey team. At 16 years old, he started at Joey’s Restaurant washing dishes and he later found himself cooking to help pay the bills. He eventually realized cooking was his true passion and changed his career path entirely.
From washing dishes to creating and cooking the food that goes on them, he has come a long way and hasn’t looked back.
He believes “cooking is [his] ticket to happiness” and encourages youth interested in the industry to pursue it.
I asked Quang for some advice and recommendations on how to get started, since I am no chef, and here was his reply:
- Cooking schools, and not all schools are the same. The most expensive is not necessarily the best. If you have never worked a day in a professional kitchen a school might be a wiser choice especially for people looking to switch careers. However, school was not really for me. I really needed to not be in a classroom.
- The other path is through an apprenticeship. Work at kitchens to get the experience and also find the right mentors at the right time. From a young cook growing up, every chef has something different to offer.
“Regardless of either path, a young cook must prepare for their first 5 years of working in the industry to be difficult and challenging. You shouldn’t look at it as being over worked or under paid. Take the perspective of being paid for school for the first 5 years. One must be prepared to work hard to go down the path of becoming a chef. For me it is not a job, a career, or work. It is a lifestyle, one that in many ways chooses you.” – Executive Chef Quang Dang, West Restaurant
… and ladies, he is single… so either he’s working too much, or not cooking enough outside of work.
Quang gave some valuable advice, but I also want to emphasize the Industry Training Authority of British Columbia (ITA BC) as another useful resource. They offer training, apprenticeships, programs and networking in the trades industries for people of all ages and walks of life. If you’re interested in becoming a chef (or getting into any trade) I strongly recommend exploring ITA.
“ITA works with employers, employees, industry, labour, training providers and government to issue credentials, manage apprenticeships, set program standards, and increase opportunities in the trades in B.C.” – ITA BC
To see my full article in WE Vancouver – see “Follow Me Foodie: Cooking up a career“.
Follow Me Foodie’s ITA BC Contest!
On behalf of ITA BC, I’m giving away 2 of Chef Quang Dang’s Tasting Menus ($200 value, exclusive of beverages and gratuity, valid Sun – Thurs excluding the month of December) at West Restaurant. You and your dining partner can meet the man above!
How to enter:
1) Comment on this post with a cook/chef who inspires you.
CONTEST CLOSES Tuesday June 18 AT 11:59PM.
Terms & Conditions:
1. Contest open to Canadian residents.
2. FollowMeFoodie.com and ITABC retain the right to approve entries.
3. Prize not negotiable, cannot be exchanged or taken as cash.
4. Allow 15 days for prize delivery.
5. If winner does not respond within 30 days of the closing date of the contest another winner will be selected.