|Easy Does It|
|Written by Ashely Newport|
|Thursday, 02 August 2012 00:00|
For someone whose culinary history suggests a hunger for competition, Patrick Gayler, executive sous chef at Victoria’s Inn at Laurel Point and Culinary Team Canada member, has an unshakeable, calm demeanor.
“I try to relate to people,” he says, describing the skills that make him a lauded chef and competitor. “I don’t push, I try to lead by example and be empathetic.”
The 27-year-old Edmonton-born toque has been cooking and competing for years, accepting an apprenticeship at Edmonton’s Fairmont Hotel MacDonald while in high school and competing in multiple contests during that time. His culinary journey — which includes cooking for Queen Elizabeth and competing in five major contests — is driven by a love of cooking and a desire to learn something new. “It’s great to be humble about it [cooking],” he says. “That’s how you learn and see the most.”
Gayler’s culinary journey began at home and gained momentum when he enrolled in high-school cooking classes. “I enjoyed cooking with my mom, and my high school offered cooking programs, and through those I got involved in Skills Canada competitions,” he explains. “I met people who worked at The Fairmont, and that’s how I started there. I just really liked the energy [of the kitchen].”
The young chef also liked the adrenaline rush of competition, so while studying culinary arts at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in 2004, he became involved in his first major event. As a student member of Team Alberta, competing at the Culinary Olympics, he went home with both gold and silver medals. He rose to team member and competed for his home province’s team in 2006 in Luxembourg and again in 2008 in Germany. In 2010, he joined Team Canada for the first time. Despite being a veteran, competition still makes him nervous. “That never stops,” he says. “You’re nervous for yourself and the guys on your team.”
Being part of a team that needs to function flawlessly under intense pressure is no easy task, but fortunately for Gayler, his respect for his peers gives him some peace in an otherwise chaotic environ-ment. “I’ve worked with hard chefs, and 10 or 15 years ago, people just put up with a lot of grief. Now, [the kitchen] is a much more nurturing environment,” he says.
It’s in that environment that Gayler has learned new techniques, including sous-vide cooking which he now uses at work. As far as ingredients go, it might be too early to say what he’ll whip up when the judges are watching, but his favourites include seasonal and local products. “It gives you a greater appreciation of the product, knowing who is farming and how it’s harvested. All you have to do is highlight the fresh textures and flavours of seasonal and local product. Let it speak for itself,” he says.
As for the future, the chef is open to anything. “It’s tough to say,” he muses. “I’d like to stay here [in Victoria]. Maybe I’ll own or operate my own place down the line.”
photo courtesy of Randall Cosco