Forget about starting with the ABCs of cooking—for Austin Schwabe, it started with the BBQ. He always liked when his parents barbecued, so standing at the grill was his first cooking-at-home experience. From there, his personal interest grew. Austin got a job in a restaurant—“I started as a dishwasher and finally worked my way up to a place on the line”—and in grade 10 chose culinary arts as his option at Bev Facey Community High School in Sherwood Park.
“In 2013, I was in grade 11, and my teacher encouraged me to try out for the school’s culinary team,” says Austin, “and I was fortunate to be one of those selected.” The team won gold that year, but Austin counts the whole experience a big win.
“The High School Culinary Challenge really opens you to so much. I met many chefs from Edmonton, had the chance to talk and network with them. And the competition inspires you to get better by doing more of them.” Austin has gone on to compete in Skills Canada, the Saputo Junior Culinary Challenge, and the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Young Commis/Chefs Competition and as a member of Team NAIT.
Looking back, Austin’s advice to future HSCC competitors is: “Practice. The more you practice, the more at ease you’ll feel and the more organized you’ll be, so you don’t have to stop and keep checking your work plan.”
Austin currently works at the Hardware Grill after completing his third year at NAIT and four other placements as part of the apprenticeship program. He’s hoping future work will involve travel to other continents “because everywhere, you’re going to learn something new.”
Who knew this about Austin …
When looking for culinary inspiration: He likes to just drink wine, talk food, and continually brainstorm new ideas.
When cooking at home for family or friends: He likes to make something they haven’t had before or a restaurant dish they might not be inclined to order.
When in the mood for a guilty-food pleasure: He reaches for Lays dill pickle potato chips.