By Gord Bowes, News staff
Janine Hall says it took her a few years after high school to figure out what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
Now she’s one of the 75 finalists in a prestigious cooking competition.
On Monday, she’ll be competing against six other Canadians to become the next star of the gastronomic world at the Canada regional round of the 2013 S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition.
Hall, a 2004 graduate of Barton Secondary School, is a student from The Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College. She won a “black box” competition — where contestants have an hour to make a meal with ingredients that were only unveiled when the clock started running — at her school to determine who would represent the school at the competition.
The 25-year-old chef in training says she takes the pressure off herself in contests by thinking she won’t win, or doesn’t need to win.
“Then the pressure is off and I’m free to have fun with it,” says Hall.
In the Almost Famous competition competitors are judged on: creativity; plate appearance, taste, texture, and aroma; sanitation at their work station; their personality while being questioned by judges and media; and on their ability to perform under pressure.
Hall has to come up with a signature dish; she has chosen one which honours her home town and her Jamaican heritage.
The winners of the 10 regional contests move on to the final competition in March in Napa Valley, Calif, where they will compete for up to $22,000 in prize money and a one-year paid apprenticeship with a celebrity chef.
Hall says life sort of steered her toward a career in cuisine. After graduating from Barton, she wasn’t sure what sort of a career she wanted to pursue, so she headed out into the workforce until she could figure out what she wanted. After a couple of years she attended Mohawk College for its personal support worker program.
But she was also working in the kitchen of a retirement home. She really enjoyed cooking and decided she would pursue it at The Canadian Food and Wine Institute.
“I have to say it’s the best decision I have made,” says Hall. “I didn’t know I could do it. I knew I loved it, but I didn’t know how much I loved it until I started getting paid for it.”
Hall, who is working at Treadwell Farm-to-Table Cuisine in Port Dalbousie while attending school, will graduate the two-year culinary management course program in April.