The Be World Ready program, in partnership with the Canadian Food and Wine Institute, chef Daniel Leblanc and two CFWI students, Valérie Harvey and Lia Betel Ramos Gutierrez, are representing Canada in Ecuador for a special Canada Day celebration.
The fifth annual Canada Day celebration in Ecuador, which took place on June 22, recognizes Ecuador’s relationship with Canada and is hosted in cooperation with the Ecuadorian – Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Guayaquil, Ecuador, serving approximately 200 delegates at the Sheraton Hotel.
“The Canada Day dinner celebration has become one of the main events of the year for this chamber, bringing together chamber members, city authorities, local businessmen, other bilateral chambers, Canadian Embassy and consular staff and Canadians living in Guayaquil, to celebrate Canada Day,” said Basil Haylock, honorary Canadian consul and founder member the Ecuadorian – Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Guayaquil. “The event offers the opportunity to share Canada’s history, traditions, population and geographic make up, etc., to inform statistically on the balance of trade, and tourism. This event highlights the ever-growing interest in import/export opportunities between our two countries and features Canada’s exceptional educational and touristic opportunities for Ecuadorians.”
As the students are selected by professor endorsement and classroom performance, Harvey and Gutierrez were humbled and honoured to have been chosen to represent Niagara College.
“This opportunity allows me to experience Ecuador through the eyes of people who live there as opposed to if I were to visit on vacation,” said Harvey, who graduated June 19 from the Culinary Management Co-Op program. Harvey is currently working on a business plan to open her own restaurant and intends to have different cultures reflected in the menu, featuring dishes inspired by some of her favourite plates from her travels.
“Food is the easiest way into any culture because no matter what language you speak, everyone eats food,” said Harvey. “That’s how I connect with other cultures; I try to learn as much as I can, asking questions about another culture’s food and then I try to reflect how I can implement what I learned in my own kitchen. How do I share my experiences traveling with the people that were not present? The easiest way for me to do so is through food.”
During their travels in Ecuador, the students traditionally provide a cooking demonstration with Canadian materials and products, highlighting Canadian culture, to a classroom of approximately 75 culinary students in Guayaquil. This year, Harvey and Gutierrez are scheduled to share their expertise and cultural background to a conference of 500 students from all the culinary schools in Guayaquil.
“While conducting the demonstration, I hope to instill that Canadians celebrate other countries and cultures and are inspired by, them” said Harvey. “Yes, I cook with maple syrup, but I use it in my Indian dish to put my own spin on it. To me, to be Canadian is to adapt and learn. I want to be able to portray to people of other cultures that they are welcome in Canada and we hope to learn from their culture.”
Gutierrez also graduated on June 19 from the Baking and Pastry Arts program and is currently working at Two Sisters winery. “Having this opportunity means the world to me,” said Gutierrez.
She further explained how she feels as though she has earned this opportunity throughout her years at the College, previously graduating from NC’s Hospitality Management program.
To put on an event of this magnitude, there are many hotel partners involved, presenting an opportunity for students to network with industry professionals and gain connections with hotel owners and managers. “I hope to gain connections while in Ecuador since I would love to work in Canada in the summers and Ecuador in the winters,” said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez explained how she prepared for the trip by researching Ecuador’s culture and explained how it is important not to make any assumptions about a culture. She advised instead to ask questions and try to learn as much as possible. Gutierrez explained even though she moved to Canada from Mexico ten years ago, she is still learning Canadian culture and traditions.
Leblanc commented how he had been planning this dinner for the past five months. He believes that this is an impactful experience for the students due to their exposure to another culture and opportunity to learn first-hand, the operations of the culinary industry in a different country. He further explained that most students who have participated in the experience are second-year students and apply what they learn during their trip to their current and future work environments.
“This process also provides the opportunity for students to think on their feet and adjust to situations that arise in any environment they are unfamiliar with,” said Leblanc. “…and to open their eyes to the world we live in.”
Cooking in high pressure situation and experiencing language barriers in a professional kitchen is representative of modern restaurant operations. Leblanc knows that this trip increases the cultural competency of students as they participate in a “lived experience” of another culture. “Exploring other cultures also deepens the appreciation you have for your own culture,” said Harvey.
Niagara College also presents culturally diverse learning environments in Ecuador through the Be World Ready Program’s internship opportunities supported by the Ecuadorian – Canadian Chamber of Commerce. These opportunities allow students to gain a competitive edge to launch their careers, and to develop global competencies through international experiences. The Be World Ready program continuously strives to create world-ready and work-ready graduates.
For more information on upcoming opportunities through the Be World Ready program, please visit beworldready.ca.