Mia Stainsby: Spotlight on talent

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

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Mia Stainsby


Poyan Danesh
Apprentice chef
Showcase Restaurant, Marriott Pinnacle Hotel

Poyan Danesh is on the ferry from Victoria, where he’s just finished taping Canada’s Next Great Chef, an 11-part televised junior cooking competition. He was one of the chefs competing but he’s not allowed to tell who’s won until the show goes to air early next year on Global.

He shows all the signs of someone to watch in our culinary scene. At 25, he’s “a star,” says Tobias MacDonald, chef de cuisine at La Belle Auberge in Delta. As a member of Team Canada last year, MacDonald has seen Danesh’s drive, ambition, energy and talent. The apprentice chef went as a support member to the World Culinary Masters in Basil, Switzerland last year. “When he leaves his current job, he’s got virtually any job he wants in this province,” MacDonald says. “Wherever we need him, whenever we need him, he’s there and that’s on top of his demanding work schedule.”

Danesh is cooking at Showcase at Marriott Pinnacle Hotel where his ambitions are being nurtured. In the three years since graduating from Vancouver Community College’s culinary program, he’s won several regional cooking competitions. In November, he’ll be a competitor in the Luxembourg Euro Expo.

“I hope to travel, see the world and cook with people who have a passion for food,” he says. “The future is kind of open,” he says. “It’s always open for chefs.”

Stephanie Noel
Sous chef, West

She came to Vancouver intending to stay a year to learn English and return to Quebec. Three years later, the 25-year-old Stephanie Noel finds herself sous chef to chef David Hawksworth at the much-acclaimed West restaurant.

She started at the lowest of cooking positions and her English, at the time, didn’t go much beyond “Where’s the bus station?” and “What’s your name?” Now she speaks fluently and she takes over the kitchen when Hawksworth is away.

“She’s very, very, very talented and I have absolute confidence in her,” he says. “She’s got leadership, drive and dedication and she could handle anything from doing this up to a 250-seat restaurant.” He has no doubt she could go to Europe and work in a three-star Michelin restaurant.

Noel is part of the creative process at West, says Hawksworth. “When spot prawns are in season, we’ll bounce ideas off each other, what’s been done before, what’s new and what we should be looking for, what goes on the menu. We’ll talk while we’re working and decide as a team. She contributes a lot.”

Noel plans to work at West for the next while but will eventually travel like every good chef should and ultimately, run her own place.

Laura Sharpe
Apprentice chef
Diva at the Met

While Poyan Danesh (in previous write-up) is a contender for Next Great Chef, Laura Sharpe currently holds the title. The 23-year-old won the national competition for junior chefs earlier this year against nine provincial finalists and last month, she was featured in Reader’s Digest as part of a “The Best of Canada” feature.

“It took a lot of determination,” she says, to win the competition, moving through two provincial competitions and then the national. It was very stressful and takes a toll on life.” She was working 40-hour weeks and planning and preparing and practising her moves. “There weren’t a lot of days off.”

Currently an apprentice at Diva At The Met, her boss Ray Henry applauds her dedication. “It took a lot of time and effort to do the competition and perform at that level,” he says. “We practised 12 full runs. It shows commitment. Her above-average talent, ability to learn, drive and commitment I think, is a perfect recipe for success.” In the kitchen, he calls her Laura Sharpe, Next Great Chef.

Sharpe, on the other hand, likes the idea of at some point in her career, teaching at a culinary school to give back a little of what she’s gotten from her mentors.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


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