|Pushing the Limits|
|Written by Brianne Binelli|
|Thursday, 02 August 2012 00:00|
Brad Horen is ready. After 15 years of competing in World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) events, the toque has a score to settle at this year’s World Culinary Olympics. “We lost the last time by I think two one-hundredths of a point and [I’m] bitter,” says the chef, who was team captain of Team Alberta at the 2008 competition. He’s laughing, but he means business.
As team captain of the Canadian Culinary Federation’s (CCF) 2012 Culinary Team Canada, Horen is intent to leave his mark on an industry he never intended to join in the first place. In fact, Horen began his post-secondary education studying commerce at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, before he realized a desk job didn’t suit him. What intrigued him was his job as a cook in a small restaurant. He changed his major to Culinary Arts and quickly began feeding his hunger for competition by joining the school’s team and participating in culinary events.
That desire for competition continued as the chef began his apprenticeship at what was formerly the Canadian Pacific Lodge at Kananaskis in Alberta where he met Mark Jorundson, who introduced him to the Culinary Olympics. Since then, Horen has worked at Chance, an Edmonton restaurant owned by Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Smyth; Catch restaurant in Calgary; and the Inn at Laurel Point in Victoria, B.C., among other foodservice companies. “I’ve done everything from small, high-end restaurants to convention centres and hotels,” says the chef who joined the team at Manteo Resort Waterfront Hotel & Villas in Kelowna, B.C., as executive sous chef earlier this year.
Today, the 37-year-old’s experience in international competition has shaped him into a chef who knows worldwide trends — including the popularity of micro veggies in the U.S. and Holland — but values learning and teaching the merits of farm-to-table cooking. It “kills” Horen to see the mass production at grocery stores. “It’s not real food anymore,” he begins. “If it’s a chicken finger or a compressed piece of meat, it’s not the same. You go to a small farm and it’s free-run chicken, and it’s got a different texture and more flavour.”
It’s this dedication to his craft and a desire to teach and learn from his peers that makes the chef an ideal fit to lead the Canadian contingent at the 2012 World Culinary Olympics in Germany in October. “I have known Brad Horen for several years and wanted him as captain for his creativity, drive to succeed, culinary skills and his uncompromising attention to detail,” explains Simon Smotkowicz, Culinary Team Canada manager.
Of course, Horen is no stranger to CCF competitions. He’s lost count of the number of times he’s been to the Olympics (three or four), but hasn’t forgotten the rich experiences he’s gained along the way. “It teaches you to be organized; it teaches you how to think differently,” he says.
The chef has put those time-management skills to the test while juggling his new job, helping choose the final team and making sure everyone (including himself) is prepared for the Olympics. “I’m the first one to kick the team member’s ass when they do something stupid or if someone doesn’t have their homework done,” he says.
It helps that the team is tight, with many of them having already competed or worked together in the past. Loyalties aside, Horen knows what he’s looking for in a good teammate. “You’re looking for someone who is dedicated, wants to learn, has different strengths than you; someone to inspire you but also push and challenge you,” he says.
Whatever the outcome, this will likely be Horen’s last time competing, and he wants to go out on a high note, before hopefully making the transition to team coach. “I don’t like to lose,” quips the captain. “I have a two-year-old daughter, and I’d like a little more home life, but I want to win the Culinary Olympics.”
photo courtesy of Randall Cosco