Quinten Bennett's heart has always been in the culinary industry. For as long as he can remember he's had his hands in one project or another, including some of his earlier memories of baking and decorating cakes with his mom.
So when the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency's Serve It Up! program came to Bennett's high school with an opportunity in his dream career, he jumped at it. "I had to go through the application process, provide references and prove that this was the path for me," says Bennett. "I had been waiting for this opportunity to open up, and I had to have it." Bennett worked hard to prove himself right for the position, similar to what a job interview would look like.
His work paid off, and Bennett soon started the Serve It Up! program, working for five weeks in the summer, gaining cooperative education and apprenticeship credits in the cook trade with the Debert Hospitality Centre.
Being exposed to the entire industry at the Hospitality Centre gave Bennett an idea of what he could look forward to in entering the field, including kitchen preparation work and clean-up. "What is valuable is knowing what to expect once I graduate, and building that trust and gaining my leadership skills," he says.
Upon completion of the program, Quentin registered as a youth apprentice with Debert Hospitality Centre. Although he continues to attend high school, he works part-time as a cook apprentice, gaining hours and experience as he works toward obtaining a certificate of qualification in the trade.
Bennett has since lead shifts in the kitchen, a highlight of the program for him. "This just speaks to my capabilities, and the program's benefits," he says. "The program definitely prepared me for the work ahead, and it taught me the importance of organization once it was my time to run the kitchen. It was an incredible honour to be given that trust and respect."
The most valuable lesson that Bennett has learned through his experience is that the culinary industry is not just fun and games. "It's not just baking a cake with your mom at five years old. You're faced with incredible pressures that come along with the job, including deadlines and hungry people. For it to be worth it, you have to enjoy it. It has to be your passion."
The Serve it Up! program has helped Bennett reach the ideal path for his career, where he has gained the right connections to utilize down the road, and has opened up several opportunities for him, including his working alongside renowned chefs. "I always knew I wanted to work in the culinary industry, but it's different when you get in there and do it. The program has shown me the whole scope of the industry, and has helped me to see that it really is the right choice for me," he adds.
Bennett loves to travel around the world to try new food, and he continues to see himself working in this field, and being immersed in a culture that keeps him fresh with new ideas. The program has given him the tools to enhance these skills that can take him all over the world in pursuit of his dreams.
The Serve It Up! Summer Youth Program is a collaboration between the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, the Tourism Association of Nova Scotia, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and employers in the industry.