Food Vancouver Select Guide: Interview with Sue Singer
This time the select guide will highlight the Eat! Vancouver Show with an interview with long time Eat! Vancouver participant Sue Singer of the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, also known as PICA.
Food Vancouver (FV) – You founded PICA in 1997. When and where did you begin your career in the culinary arts? How did you come to venture into such a large undertaking?
Sue Singer (SS) - I had always worked in the hospitality industry. I started out in Toronto then moved to Vancouver. I love the industry and recognized that there was a need in Canada for a school with an on-site restaurant for training. I wanted to offer something unique to the Canadian culinary industry.
FV - How would you say the industry changed over the last 10 years?
SS –We are seeing many students enter the program from high school. Parents and teachers are directing students who are creative and have a passion for the culinary arts, rather than focusing solely on University. We are also seeing many people enter our programs with a desire for a career change, following their passion and love for food.
FV - How do you find your professional, world class instructors?
SS - Most of instructors never leave! We have 9 international chefs who had previously owned businesses or worked internationally and who are now choosing to give back to the industry by teaching.
FV - Where have students found professional opportunities after completing programs at PICA?
SS – Mainly at fine dining restaurants or hotels, some work with catering companies and others with patisseries. Our students move on to other countries as well including the US, Europe, Asia and South America.
FV - What makes PICA different from other culinary schools in Vancouver or Canada?
SS – We were the first private culinary school in Canada to have an on site bakeshop and restaurant, operated by students. This gives students practical experience with consistency, speed and production. They develop a strong foundation during their education with us.
FV - How important is it to be part of the local community by participating in events such as Eat! Vancouver?
SS – I think it is very important. We were among the first to participate in the show. It allows us an opportunity to showcase our different offerings and services and talk with people. We do weddings, corporate team building events, special event catering, private event functions and cooking classes. This is much more than one might expect from a Culinary School so it is great to be able to engage with people and let them know what we have to offer.
FV - What advice would you give to a potential student who expresses a desire to become a celebrity chef like so many we see on television?
SS - Forget it! (laughs) The chances of someone becoming a celebrity chef is very slim. The decision to hire a chef for television is often not based on expertise, but rather personality and how someone looks on camera. This profession requires hard work and dedication, done through a true love of cooking and baking.
FV - You have been awarded with the 2006 and 2007 Consumer’s Choice Award for Business Excellence in the category of Trade School – the first culinary school in Canada to receive this distinguished honour. This is quite a feat! If you could receive any award in the future, what would it be?
SS – I’d like to see us continue to get the Consumer’s Choice Award because it is voted by the people which is a huge compliment. It would also be nice to be on the Food Network, featured as an exclusive school. If one of our graduates was asked to be on the Network it would be great!
FV - How do enjoy staffing the booth at the Eat! Vancouver show i.e. interacting with the young people asking about becoming students at PICA.
SS – It’s great. We often have chefs visit our booth and say “please keep sending us your great students!” It’s nice to be able to go to such events within the industry and hold our heads high. It is nice to be recognized for what we do best.
To learn more about the world of culinary arts, please visit the Eat! Vancouver show at BC Place Stadium on May 23rd, 24th & 25th, 2008. For more information on the show including exhibitors, features and competitions, please visit www.eat-vancouver.com.
If you are interested in pursuing a culinary career please visit www.picachef.com for information on PICA programs and course offerings. Also you can visit Sue at booth 526 at the Eat Vancouver Show.
By Dana Mahon
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