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Aspiring chef creates award-winning cuisine

Aspiring chef creates award-winning cuisine

Written On: 30 May, 2017
Category: Academic Awards Community Student Spotlight

On May 31 to June 3rd four Assiniboine Community College students will be part of the annual Skills Canada National Competition taking place in Winnipeg at the RBC Convention Centre. The event brings together more than 500 students and apprentices to take part in more than 40 hands-on skilled trade and technology competitions.

For someone who’d never been competitive, 21-year-old Tiara Ringling found her inner contestant at exactly the right time. 

“Going into Skills Manitoba, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Ringling, who’s graduating this year from Assiniboine Community College’s Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts (MICA). “And I practiced my hardest, but I didn’t expect to win. But the day before Skills, I got kind of, ‘OK – I really want to win this.’ I’d have been happy with a silver or a bronze. But when I got to Winnipeg, I was like, ‘I really want that gold.’”

And that’s exactly what she got. 

The talented young cook grew up in Winnipeg, and in her youth, she planned to pursue psychology as a career. But studying for her chosen field at university caused her much angst, and as she was preparing supper one night, the light bulb flicked on.

“I wasn’t super-interested in food growing up, but I always baked with my mom at Christmas,” Ringling said. “And as I got older, I cooked supper just for the fun of it for my family all the time. And I liked doing it. 

“I did university for a year and a half, and I’d come home and be all stressed out, and then I’d cook and I’d not be stressed anymore. So I realized that was what I enjoyed doing the most.”

Rather than attend culinary school in Winnipeg, Ringling wanted to experience something new. She found a school in Vancouver that piqued her interest, but it was too far away and too expensive. Then she discovered MICA.

She came to check it out through Assiniboine’s Spend-a-Day program, where prospective students go through a typical day in the area in which they want to study. And for Ringling, that sealed the deal.

“It was just a really good environment – I had a great time,” she said. “The teachers – Chef Bryan and Chef Jo – were really good. I pretty much made my decision that day.” 

Ringling had spent time in Brandon on family vacations, but as a resident, she discovered she preferred the Wheat City to the provincial capital. 

“I really like living here more than Winnipeg because everything’s so close and the people seem to be way nicer,” she said. “One thing I noticed especially is Brandon Transit was way better. Friendlier drivers, and they don’t drive away if you’re not quite at the stop and trying to catch the bus. I use it every day.”

Ringling has been practicing daily for Skills Canada, but she’s a bit apprehensive about competing against the best student chefs in the country. And while she knew which ingredients she’d be using at Skills Manitoba, there’s less advance information for the national competition. All she knows is she’ll be preparing fish and shellfish. 

“I’m a little more nervous than last time because there’s more people and I’m sure they’re really good,” Ringling said. “Chef Bryan said I’d be going up against people from the coasts who cook fish every day, and that’s kind of scary because I’m from the Prairies.  

“But I’m not all that panicked about winning. I just want to put out stuff I’m proud of. And I want to do a good job for me and my chef instructors and ACC.”

After Skills Canada, Ringling plans to continue working for Aida’s Catering in Brandon, and hopes to gain even more experience since catering is something she’d like to pursue.  

“I really enjoyed doing events at ACC,” she said. “They’re so much fun. The way everyone comes together as a team – that’s great. We put out really good food, and it makes me feel proud to be a part of that. 

“I’ve done a few events with Aida, and I got the same feeling. So catering – that’s something I’ll hopefully be able to do for a long time.” 

Someday, Ringling said, she might start her own catering business. And that would definitely be the icing on the cake!