Whitehorse Daily Star

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OFF TO OTTAWA – Chef David Verney will be in the nation’s capital later this month to help rewrite the test apprenticing chefs must write in order to get their red seal.

Yukoner part of rewriting red seal test for chefs

It’s been 35 years since David Verney got his first job in a kitchen

By Stephanie Waddell on September 2, 2016

It’s been 35 years since David Verney got his first job in a kitchen and now the red seal accredited cook who works out of the Coast High Country Inn will play a role in the testing of those hoping to gain their red seals in the trade.

Verney is slated to travel to Ottawa late this month as part of a group of chefs from across the country tasked with looking at rewriting the test for the red seal program. The red seal is the highest level of accreditation a chef can receive under the apprenticeship programs in Canada.

“Kitchens have changed a lot (over the years),” he said in an interview at the Coast High Country Inn Wednesday.

It’s difficult to find a restaurant that has, for example, gelatin dishes on their menu; yet, the testing for such dishes remains on the red seal test.

And that means a need to make changes to certain parts of the testing that better reflect what’s currently happening in restaurant kitchens across the country.

When Verney learned that the test requirements was being rewritten, he decided he wanted to be part of it and submitted his application. He recently learned he’d be one of 10 chefs as well as five cooking instructors from across the country that will travel to Ottawa late next month to review the test and come up with potential changes to it.

While Verney will be there as one of the 10 chefs, he brings with him experience teaching as well.

Along with stints working with Yukon College to develop and deliver courses around the territory, Verney currently works with Vanier Catholic Secondary School students who are looking to gain some experience working in a kitchen. Over the last four years or so, the Coast High Country Inn has hosted a total of about five students who come in on an afternoon or two each week and gain experience working in the kitchen.

If Verney is able to get one student interested in cooking, he said, “then I’m thrilled.”

While Verney got his first job in a kitchen at just 14, his love for cooking goes back much earlier. His mother and grandmother both had a passion for cooking. Dinner was made from scratch and always a family event, he said.

“There was always a lot of love in the kitchen,” Verney said, noting he too “got the bug somehow”. And with two sons who’ve gone into cooking careers, it appears he’s passed down that passion to his own kids as well.

He laughed as he commented it’s not a career anyone gets into and stays in for either the money or the hours: he’s worked his share of 14-hour days throughout his career, often during festivals and special events.

Rather, it’s that passion for creating dishes. As Verney said, it’s seeing the expression of someone who’s just bitten into something they love. Even during his time off at home away from the work kitchen, Verney loves cooking for his wife.

His skills in the kitchen have taken him around the world. In his early 20s he got a job with Club Med. It not only gave him the opportunity to visit a variety of destinations he wouldn’t have otherwise, like Belize and the Bahamas, but being part of a crew that was cooking for crowds of 700-plus gave his self-esteem a much-needed boost at the time.

By his early 30s Verney was living in Vancouver, and the North, as the saying goes, “had always called” to him. So in the early 1990s, when the Westmark Klondike Inn (where the Days Inn is currently located) offered him a job and a one-way ticket to Whitehorse, he took it.

Verney noted it wasn’t uncommon for companies like the Westmark to pay for staff to fly to the territory at that time, when there were not as many flights into the Yukon. Employers; however, did not pay for any flights out.

“I was basically stuck here,” he said with a laugh of the community that has become home.

When the Klondike Inn moved to seasonal operations, Verney found himself working two jobs between the kitchen there and at the Airport Chalet.

From there, his culinary career continued, though he did leave the territory at one point to work at the Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews, N.B. He eventually returned to the territory and has been at the Coast High Country Inn for more than a decade, going back further than Northern Vision Development’s ownership of the hotel.

Asked if he has a specialty after this many years in the business, Verney commented that he especially enjoys making “comfort food”; things like meatloaf and mashed potatoes and the like.

“Simple food, but make it good,” he said.

As Verney gets set to go to Ottawa later this month to consider changes to the red seal test for cooks, he said he has no idea what to expect and is ready to listen and consider what changes may need to be made to the test.

Along with working on the national test, Verney is also hoping to do more work that would increase training opportunities for Yukoners looking to work in the culinary field.

He’s also hoping to work towards expanding the training opportunities for Yukon chefs down the road.

Since the territory began accrediting cooks in 1981, a total of 95 have earned their red seal accreditation here.

Comments (5)

Up 9 Down 0

Yes, Chef - No, Chef on Sep 6, 2016 at 3:08 pm

This is totally an aside from this story but as a non cooking person why does everyone always say, Yes, Chef- No, Chef on all these cooking shows. It sounds ridiculous, you don't hear other professionals constantly addressed as, 'Yes, Engineer- No-Engineer', or , 'Yes, Dentist- No, Dentist, etc. Is this simply to stroke the Chefs ego to constantly remind everyone he/she is the top person in the kitchen? If my co-workers and employees constantly addressed me by my occupation I'd ask them to please stop, I have a name.

Up 10 Down 2

Clearing up the Chef vs. Cook Mystery on Sep 5, 2016 at 11:19 pm

"The red seal is the highest level of accreditation a chef can receive under the apprenticeship programs in Canada."

This statement is fallacious.
There are NO Red Seal Chefs, only Red Seal Cooks, as per the Inter-provincial Apprenticeship guidelines.

Red Seal Cooks must earn Certificates of Apprenticeship and Qualification.

In the entire history of Canada, only 1,110 certified Chefs are recorded, according to the governing body, the Canadian Culinary Institute (http://www.ccicc.ca/Home.html), which bestows certification upon those earning the title of Certified Working Chef, Certified Chef de Cuisine or Certified Master Chef.

Canada's first Master Chef was certified in 2014 and the second in 2015.

The overwhelming majority of cooks claiming to be Chefs are either ignorant of industry standards or blatantly lying about their credentials. Remember that next time some hack walks into a dining room to greet guests as Chef.

See the following links for lists of Certified Canadian Chefs:
All Canadian Certified Working Chefs (18 as of July, 2015): http://www.ccicc.ca/cwc%20overview.pdf
All Canadian Certified Chefs de Cuisine (1090 as of July, 2015): http://www.ccicc.ca/xxxx-ccc%20recipient%20list%20with%20index.pdf

All Canadian Certified Master Chefs( 2, as of 2015):
http://restaurantcentral.ca/JudsonWSimpsonCertifiedMasterChef.aspx
http://ccfcc.ca/2015/06/announcing-canadas-second-certified-master-chef

Requirements for certification as a Chef de Cuisine: http://www.ccicc.ca/ccc%20overview.pdf

Requirements for certification as a Certified Master Chef: http://www.ccicc.ca/Detailed%20Course%20descriptions%20and%20core%20outcomes%20for%20CMC.pdf

Apologies for any fragile egos threatened by fact.

Up 8 Down 0

Charles on Sep 5, 2016 at 8:28 am

Way to go Dave, You tell them how its done.

Up 12 Down 0

Camille Martin on Sep 4, 2016 at 11:32 am

I have had the pleasure knowing Dave since he was a teenager. He always had a warm place in my heart. And my deceased husband, Ross Martin, who was a chef himself, and taught foods in High School would have been so proud of him as I am now.
I wish you the very best Dave and the wonderful adventure you are about to undertake may it expand your horizons even further because I know the man you have become and so deserving of your success! You did it!!! Love you (your second "mom")

Up 14 Down 0

Paulette Tremblay on Sep 2, 2016 at 8:19 pm

I've known Dave for almost 30 years. He's the the best chef I know. He showed me how to debone a turkey for Thanksgiving one year. Dave, thanks for all you do. You're a great teacher. You are Blessed. Enjoy down East.

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