You can call it cooking with love.
Students from the Okanagan Chef School at Okanagan College dropped plans this week for a final feast to celebrate the end of their program and jumped into supporting the local emergency response instead.
Typically, students at the Okanagan Chef School host a community dinner at the end of their year and one was planned for this week. However, when the event had to be cancelled due to the area wildfires, the students decided to shift their focus to preparing meals for those engaged in the response and impacted by the emergency.
“One of our classmates has lost her home so we are doing everything we can to support her and support everyone else in the community,” said student chef Alessandra DiMattia. “We have created the menu ourselves, many of the dishes are our family recipes. We hope they bring a little bit of the comfort of home to those who have been evacuated or lost homes.”
Although the students had spent weeks and weeks leading up the originally planned community dinner, once they pivoted to preparing and packaging more than 800 ready-to-go meals for evacuees, the 13 chefs had just a few days.
“We thought we would take all of the energy and expertise we can and put it toward cooking for evacuees and those that need the help,” said Chef Geoffrey Couper, chair of the Culinary and Pastry Arts program and instructor. “We are preparing ready to eat meals, things that are super easy so people can get some great food in them.”
“We are cooking with love and that is what is going to make all of the difference,” said Chef Couper.
Couper notes this is just one example of how the College and its employees have stepped forward to support their communities across the Okanagan Valley. OC staff and students have also helped at different volunteer stations, donated lunches to firefighters and several individuals have opened their homes to evacuees across the Valley.
“Everyone knows someone impacted by the many fires burning in our region, from friends to family to colleagues,” said Juliana Buitenhuis, campus administrator at the Penticton campus. “It is great to know that as staff, students and as neighbors, we respond to calls to action and support our communities.”