Saanich Foodie: Firing up new dishes, new careers at Camosun Culinary Arts
Originally featured in Victoria News (Beet-cured Salmon recipe by Chef Steve Walker-Duncan)
Dressed head to toe in chef’s whites, Steve Walker-Duncan speaks passionately about the culinary arts and its role in bringing people together. “Food unites every single person on the planet,” he says. “It crosses over gender, ethnicity, and geographical borders. People light up when you talk about food because it’s universal.”
For his capstone paper in the joint Camosun and Simon Fraser University Master of Education program, he explored the relationship between food and learning.
“Food is a vehicle for learning across disciplines and it can be used to teach math, politics, geography, weather systems or other topics because it applies everywhere,” he says, highlighting that a passion for interdisciplinary teaching and applied learning has underpinned his career.
Walker-Duncan got his start in the kitchen of John’s Place as a teenager and has worked as an instructor at Camosun since 2003. In fall 2016, he became the program chair of the college’s Culinary Arts program.
“My mandate is to put the community back in community college,” he says. ”That means becoming more much active with an understanding that we want our efforts to be community focused.”
Already plans are underway for a partnership between Camosun Culinary Arts and the Mustard Seed. “They’re creating a production kitchen and bringing in 55,000 pounds each week of less than perfect looking produce from local Thrifty Foods stores,” he explains. “Our role is bringing the right skills to process it properly and give the people participating in the program skills they can take back to the workforce.”
Around Camosun’s Interurban campus, Walker-Duncan highlights the importance of healthy local produce. “We’ve got two edible gardens that our students use in their cooking,” he says. “And this year we started a ‘mini farmers market’ in the cafeteria where we’re selling bunches of fresh, local asparagus, chard and other vegetables.”
Walker-Duncan has decades of experience as an entrepreneur including owning a hotel in England and occupying culinary positions in Spain, Gibraltar, and the Netherlands. Since 2010, he’s hosted Flavours of the West Coast on CHEK TV.
His business expertise informs his teaching. “Everything has a cost, whether it’s a product cost or a people cost,” he says. “The title of our program is Professional Cook which ultimately means that it’s your livelihood. I teach my students they need to understand the budget side of things.”
When his students graduate, Walker-Duncan is pleased that they make an immediate impact in the local culinary scene. “Some of my former students are now working at John’s Place,” he says. “It’s full circle for me.”