A hardworking young Calgarian is enjoying some unprecedented success on the world stage.
Erik Hansen, a student in the Culinary Arts program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), has put his talents to the test to cook up something pretty special.
Hansen is just back from the renowned Jean Rougie competition in France, going knife-to-knife against other top young chefs.
“Hundreds of people apply – it’s the biggest thing on the planet as far as cooking goes,” SAIT Culinary Arts instructor Andrew Springett said. “Hundreds of people cheering… it’s the Olympics of cooking.”
The Jean Rougie event is usually open only to French chefs, but this year for the first time, it allowed for competitors from outside Europe.
“When Erik, (representing) Canada, was announced the winner, they couldn’t believe it,” Springett said. “Their jaws dropped, that a kid from Calgary can come and take this competition – unbelievable.”
Hansen had to overcome some early nerves on his way to victory.
“I was super shaky at the start and you kind of realize as you go that you can relax,” Hansen said. “It’s really a mental game, and believing in yourself and being confident is what can lead to your success.”
Hard work also played a big role, with Hansen, 20, putting in many weeks practising before leaving for France.
“I can teach skill, but I cannot teach passion,” SAIT Culinary Arts instructor Manuel Panfili said. “He’s very passionate.”
Putting in long hours sharpening his skills in the kitchen comes naturally for Hansen.
“I love flavour,” Hansen said, “and making art out of food.”