Local chefs head for Brazil
Peter Keith, Randy Kozak represent Canada at WorldSkills Americas
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 06:00 am
Two St. Albert chefs will travel to Brazil next month to represent Canada as part of an international skills competition.
Paul Kane alumnus Peter Keith and Paul Kane culinary arts teacher Randy Kozak are on their way to São Paulo, Brazil this November to take part in the second ever WorldSkills Americas competition. The event pits the best young trades-people of North, South and Central America against each other in a contest of skill.
This is the first year that Canada has competed in this event, says Shawna Bourke, spokesperson for Skills Canada Alberta. Keith, who graduated from high school in 2009, is the lone chef and sole Albertan on the team.
“Peter’s been competing for a number of years,” she says, when asked why Keith got the nod for the team. He finished just shy of a spot on the national team earlier this year at the Skills Canada competition. He has a proven record, so they decided to send him.
Keith says he has just three weeks to prepare for the event and is still jet-lagged from his gold-medal performance at the Culinary Olympics in Germany earlier this month. “I actually just found out yesterday the ingredients I have to cook.”
That’s why he’s bringing along his old mentor, Kozak, as a coach. “I could not pick a better person in the world to accompany me on this,” Keith says. “I know he’ll help make it a good experience.”
Like its Canadian equivalent, the WorldSkills tournament has young trades-persons complete challenges in areas such as welding, carpentry and hairdressing under a time limit.
For the culinary challenge, Keith will have to cook four meals over four days using a set list of techniques and ingredients, including several mystery ingredients that will not be revealed until the day of the competition. “It’s a bit of a marathon,” Keith says.
While competitors usually have months to prepare for these events, Keith says the instructions for the culinary challenge were released just a few weeks ago due to delays on the organizers’ part.
“To be honest,” Keith says, “I’m exhausted from last week.” But he’s also not one to back down from a challenge, he adds. He plans to team up with fellow alumnus (and Culinary Olympian) Patrick Gayler to brainstorm ideas for this coming event.
Kozak, who is head of career and technology studies at Paul Kane, says it’s been an honour to mentor Keith for all these years. “Sometimes, it brings a tear to your eye.”
In addition to coaching Keith, Kozak says he’ll be one of 14 culinary experts on hand to judge the contest and select the mystery ingredients the contestants will get each day.
Keith says his recent time in Germany at the Culinary Olympics might give him an edge in this contest, as many of the required dishes have a German theme.
Still, he continues, this is the first time that he’s entered a four-day long event, and he might run into a lot of novel South American ingredients. “I might be one of (only) two English speakers competing.”
Kozak says he plans to draw upon his 30 years of cooking experience to judge the contest. The recent Gold Medal Plates fundraiser in Edmonton (which featured the best chefs in Edmonton) was a great way to make sure his tastebuds were at 100 per cent, he adds.
In an attempt to channel the success of Canada’s 2002 Olympic gold-medal-winning hockey team, Kozak says he plans to place a toonie in Keith’s toolbox for luck.
The WorldSkills Americas competition runs from Nov. 12 to 18. Residents can follow Kozak and Keith at the event at facebook.com/kozakkeith2012.