3 Students Sitting and Laughing

Success Stories

Kellie Callender

Where did you do your co-op work terms?

My first co-op was at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver. It made me realize which aspects of cooking I was truly passionate about. I had the chance to explore multiple sections from fine dining, butchery, high volume pastry work and banquet catering. It was my main drive to focus on working in a small restaurant setting where I was able to learn a more varied skill set in all aspects of the industry while also using my creativity. My second co-op was working with the Canadian Institute of Sport—developing and implementing a menu for athletes training for Sochi. This was great because it let me focus on making healthy food interesting and fun. It made me realize that a primary aspect and ethical aspect of what chefs should do is focus on nutrition.

What did you enjoy most about the Culinary Arts Program at Vancouver Island University?

What I enjoyed most were that the chefs at VIU really pushed you to improve yourself personally, as well as improve your skills in the kitchen. There was so much support given as well as room to be independent and to be able to learn to think on your own. The program was also catered to many different learning styles and mimics how the industry actually works. 

What cooking experiences have you had over the years that are significant and helped shape your career?

I had an opportunity at Aman Kora Resorts in Bhutan and it taught me how to work in a foreign culture and to adapt to wonderfully unconventional work environments. Eating hummus in Israel. Sunday morning pancakes.my uncle Gideon's Mally-o-bars and biscuits. My friends mom, Maria's cooking all of it, just amazing. Venison tenderloin from Haida Gwaii. Patis and Calamansi from the Philippines. Chicken neck soup at my dads. Chef Clay's 50$ risotto. Bhutanese everything. Indian everything . Fufu in Ghana. Yakiniku battle.

Where are you working now?

I now working at the Bistro at Westwood as Head Chef. What I intend to do is put in a chefs garden and work with local suppliers to make the best food I can.

Who has been the strongest Chef mentor for you?

The biggest mentor has been Chef Josh Massey for teaching me humility, patience and kindness in the kitchen amount many other essential lessons. He once told me to ignore the praise because at the end of the day you need to cook food that makes you happy and if you believe the praise you will believe the insults as well and there will always be both. Chef Hanin: he sat me down after my first 6 weeks of culinary school and told me I would never succeed unless I spoke up and asked questions. And Chef Rogers because he understood, everything. Chef Chandler because he was tough and fun at the same time. 

What is your greatest success?

Anytime my grandpa compliments the food that I make him is probably when I feel the most success.

Advice to future students?

The advice I have for future students is to not give up. It gets better. And to work for yourself always, consider being an employee paid training. And taste everything all the time. And it's not all about work, live, take time off, travel, love.