Ecole Allain St-Cyr graduate aims to get cooking on culinary career

Nathan Hamel is one of seven students set to earn a diploma from Yellowknife's French language Ecole Allain St-Cyr this year.

While some of his peers may still be deliberating over their plans for the future, he is wholly confident in the path he wants to take.

"[Now that I'm done high school], I can finally work on what I want to do in life," he said after his graduation. "I want to be a chef or cook."

Hamel already has experience in the kitchen. He said he cooks at least two meals a day at home, with a preference for anything that is "complex and complicated."

"If it’s just a simple salad, or a simple pasta, I feel like it’s missing something," he said. "If it’s complex and it takes time to make, I feel like it’s good because you actually worked on it."

He also works as a cook at Yellowknife's Chateau Nova hotel, and enjoys his job immensely.

"It’s very good work over there," he said. "It’s not like a McDonald’s where you just flip patties and stuff. You actually have to cook. You have to cut ingredients, you actually cook an actual meal — not just fast food."

Despite his youth, Hamel already appreciates the value of experience. With high school completed, he intends to spend some time expanding his resume in restaurants outside the NWT, and has also considered working as a cook in the army and attending culinary school.

"My ideal situation is probably to leave Yellowknife and to enter a fancy restaurant — a restaurant that is highly complex that gives actual meals," he said.

"I have a couple of culinary schools as options, but I also have the idea of going to the army as a cook," he added. "Later on, [after working], I can still go to those culinary schools for chefs."

In Hamel's ideal world, he will one day be able to open his own restaurant. However, he once again acknowledged the importance of gaining experience before going into business for himself.

"If possible, I’d like to create my own restaurant after years of experience," he said. "I won’t start with my restaurant right away. I need experience, I need to work at other restaurants to see how they prepare meals."

While he savours his future, that doesn't mean he won't think fondly of his time at Ecole Allain St-Cyr.

"I’ll miss my friends and the teachers," he said. "It’s quite a small school in the higher grade levels.

"That means that the teachers are able to take care of the students, and make it like a big family, and understand the students, and make the classes fun while also very educational."

Tom Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, NWT News/North