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Saanich-based food truck serves students taste of culinary world

The Camosun Cuisine Machine visits high schools at all three south Island school districts

A college food truck serving the south Island is satiating both young hunger and culinary curiosity.

When the Camosun Cuisine Machine launched in 2018, it already served a learning purpose, starting as a multidisciplinary project for students studying things such as sheet metal, automotive, pipe fitting and graphic design.

“While the food truck was getting fitted and all that, I was working with culinary students on developing a menu,” said chef Heidi Fink, culinary instructor and team lead for the food truck.

Launched to much fanfare, it is now part of the professional cooking program, and along the way offers high-schoolers a hand at serving their peers with a taste of the work. The Cuisine Machine is a cool aspect of the program, introduced in the second half of an eight-month intensive – with the first four months a hearty introduction leaving students hungry for the hands-on second half, Fink said.

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During the school year, the Cuisine Machine hits both Interurban and Lansdowne campuses weekly, with stops at high schools in all three school districts in the region. They stick to those and private functions to not compete with other travelling eateries.

“They get to hop on board and cook alongside the chef and staff and learn,” said Lindsay Johnson, district vice-principal for Pathways and Partnerships in SD 61.

The opportunity is an offshoot of the Camosun College partnership with South Island Partnership, where students can do technical trades or academic programming while in high school.

The learning partnership has blossomed during the last eight years, with roughly 40 students a year doing some kind of trades training including cooking, electrical and construction.

On the truck, students experience the high-paced environment on a food truck.

“It’s another way to expose students to another path to being a professional chef or cook,” Johnson said.

The truck also serves as a recruitment tool, Fink said. At high schools, she brings aboard two to four students from that community to work with the team through the lunch service.

Organized ahead, Fink brings chef jackets for them and puts the kids to work feeding their peers.

“I think it’s important for anyone who’s going into any industry to have some exposure of what they’re getting into,” Fink said, noting with schoolwork, sports and jobs, many youth may not otherwise have the opportunity.

Fink says her Camosun students often cite the food truck as a part of their path to the culinary program. It’s good experience for the students who are already at culinary school and an opportunity to see and war in a mobile kitchen, outdoors and interact directly with consumers – not common in a kitchen.

“The reason they signed up for the program is we have a food truck.”

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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