Okanagan College culinary arts student Dayna Duckworth-Dolan was more than a little surprised this month when she learned that she had won one of the three $1,500 B.C. Hospitality Foundation Scholarships selected by the Chefs’ Table Society of British Columbia and sponsored by SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts.
“Overwhelmed, excited, shocked and amazed” is the way the composed Professional Cook Level 2 student explains her reaction. “I didn’t even know I had been nominated until a few days before when Chef Bernard (Casavant) let me know that I was among those being considered.”
It is the first time a culinary arts student from the Okanagan has been chosen to receive the scholarship, which also came with an opportunity to participate as a fully registered delegate to the CONNECT Food+Drink+Lodging Show in Vancouver, that included an industry breakfast where the awards were presented.
Casavant, who is the College’s Culinary Manager, says he had the pleasure of watching Duckworth-Dolan in action at a Fall Wine Festival event held at the College where her professionalism and enthusiasm shone. “She has poise, confidence and a desire to learn. She just has it.”
From Duckworth-Dolan’s perspective, the financial support is welcome, but more than that the scholarship communicates industry support and interest in her career choice. “Having somebody else tell me that they value my efforts and career choice means a great deal. It’s an extra catalyst to tell me this was the right industry for me.”
“That's precisely what the scholarship program is all about,” explains Alan Sacks, executive director of the B.C. Hospitality Foundation. “Our primary mandate is to support members of the hospitality industry who face a financial crisis due to a medical condition. In addition, with our scholarship program, we want to encourage and inspire the next generation of leaders in our industry. We are excited to be able to assist Dayna as she builds a successful career in British Columbia.”
Duckworth-Dolan was taking a management program at another institution when she decided – with the support of her family – to explore something that had always been of great interest to her: a career in the culinary arts. She’s confident now her decision was the right one at a “life-changing fork in the road.”
“This industry is fast-paced, ever-changing and has so many avenues you can explore. The chef-instructors at the College are incredible,” says Duckworth-Dolan. “It’s like having a thesaurus of chefs. You ask about something and you will learn about the different ways you can approach it. There’s never a question that goes unanswered and you get amazing constructive feedback. They are interested in helping you increase speed and boost your creativity.
“I’m only 24. I have a long, exciting career ahead of me in this industry. I know I want experience in a variety of settings, from small bistros to large hotels where you can cook for thousands. I really believe the spice of life is variety.”
Okanagan College offers intakes into its culinary arts program at various times of the year. The next intake is January 2015.
Photo: Dayna Duckworth-Dolan receives her B.C. Hospitality Foundation Scholarship from Okanagan College's Chef Bernard Casavant (left) and Chef Geoffrey Couper.