More than a dozen cook trainees on P.E.I. are back in the kitchen after COVID-19 forced a six-month pause to their education.
The free entry-level cook training program is offered by the Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island and the Culinary Institute of Canada, with funding from Skills P.E.I.
The goal is to train cooks to work in Island kitchens and help restaurants fill their labour gaps.
“Not a two-year graduate, not a chef, but someone who can come in at a very entry level,” said Austin Clement, program manager at the Culinary Institute. “Someone who understands food safety, somebody who understands the sense of urgency, preparation of small little sandwiches, soup, salads — that sort of thing.”
Demand from restaurants
Clement said the program was launched in 2019 at the request of the food service industry on P.E.I., which was struggling to find enough staff. “In the past, certainly, there have been challenges with working conditions and wages, but that’s improved somewhat over the course of time,” Clement said. “The explosion we’ve had here as Canada’s Food Island, we’ve seen more restaurants, very good restaurants, built a reputation for food. We’re filling a need as volume increases.”
The first training program in 2019 had 16 participants, and five of them have continued their training at the Culinary Institute.
This year’s program has 14 cooks in training, and all but four were in the program when the pandemic shut it down in March.
“It was a little disappointing. We missed out probably on a few important events that we were supposed to do now due to COVID,” said Kirsten Fisher-Compton, who travels to and from Lennox Island every day.
Fisher-Compton heard about the entry-level cook training program from her boss at Tyne Valley Teas Cafe, where she