This 18-year-old could be Vancouver’s next star chef

An interview with up-and-coming chef Leah Patitucci in honour of VCC's 50th Anniversary.

November 10, 2015

By Ashley Sparrow

In celebration of Vancouver Community College’s 50th anniversary, the VCC Foundation will be hosting a gala entitled “50 Years. 50 Chefs,” with net proceeds going toward VCC scholarships and bursary funds. The 50 chefs that constitute this group include VCC’s highest-achieving students, faculty members, and alumni, who will be presenting their gastronomical masterpieces for guests to consume. In addition, a small number of talented students have been invited to cook alongside the 50 established chefs. Among this select group is Leah Patitucci, a current VCC culinary arts student with two months left in her training. At 18 years old, Patitucci has been singled out by VCC instructors as the next up-and-coming chef. With an apprenticeship at Hawksworth Restaurant under her belt and a gig at Temper Pastry, Patitucci anticipates her graduation from VCC and contemplates her future in the culinary arts.

How did you end up at culinary school? I took cooking classes throughout high school, but I knew I wanted to do more than just bake cookies or make spaghetti. When I found out about ACE IT (Accelerated Credit Enrolment in Industry Training), I completed my registration form right away. It’s a program that allows you to take VCC’s culinary arts program while still in high school.

Who was your most inspiring (or enviable) classmate? Morgan Franz. She is always pushing and encouraging me to do my best. I know that if something goes wrong, she will be there for me and vice versa. 

Who was your favourite teacher? Chef Scarlet Gaffney. She has formed me into the cook I am today and continues to do so. She has been there for me way beyond the classroom, becoming a mentor to me—and a friend.
 
Have you had a job while in school? Yes. I work full-time at Temper Pastry in West Vancouver under Chef Steven Hodge.
 
What was your worst injury? Frying doughnuts, the oil came up and splashed my face.
 
What was your worst cooking disaster? Knocking over a cambro of cream from the top shelf of a rack.
 
What was your first triumphant dish? It’s hard to say what I would consider a triumphant dish. If I had to pick, I would say my hand-rolled linguine carbonara.
 
What was the harshest criticism you received? That this might not be the right industry for me, and maybe I should reconsider.
 

What was the hardest technique to master? Not necessarily a technique, but I have learned that to grow in this industry you must push yourself and go out of your comfort zone. Although I have not yet mastered this, I have gotten a lot better

What was it like to apprentice at Hawksworth Restaurant? It was great. I learned a lot from my experience. I look back at it as a real turning point when I decided what I really wanted to do with my life.

What do you have planned next? Where would you like to see yourself in the future? I plan on getting my Red Seal in both culinary and pastry arts. This summer, I will be starting university as a business student. I will also be continuing to work full-time at Temper Pastry. In the future I would like to see myself successfully running my own restaurant.

What will you miss about being a student in culinary school? I am definitely going to miss all of the great chefs and support that comes from VCC. 

50 Years. 50 Chefs.,
November 17, 7pm-11pm

Tickets: $300, 604-871-7067 
Rocky Mountaineer Station, 1755 Cottrell Street 

 
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