College of the Rockies Professional Cook Training program auxiliary instructor Chef Steven Lechmann recently participated in a professional development opportunity in Costa Rica.
Discussions about training opportunities between Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje (INA) in Costa Rica and the College’s International department began in 2014. When the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to share knowledge was presented to the College’s Cook Training faculty, Chef Steven was quick to jump at the opportunity.
“The chance to travel to another country and to not only share the skills that I have but to also be able to learn about their culture and their cooking methods was something I definitely wanted to be a part of,” says Lechmann.
During the week of the exchange, 22 Executive Chefs from across Costa Rica participated in professional development, focussing on carving, garnishing and pastries. Lechmann lead the training in pastry work, sugar work and plate arrangement but also had the opportunity to learn carving skills and traditional Costa Rican cuisine from the local chefs.
College of the Rockies International Projects and Marketing Specialist Ian Murdoch comments “We were happy to support Chef Steven in this opportunity. Exchanges like this provide a tremendous opportunity to build relationships and establish partnerships. We are hoping this is a first step toward more exchanges and potential collaboration on projects, similar to our work in Bolivia, the Caribbean, Kenya and Tanzania.”
The week-long program concluded with a formal luncheon with the Executive Chefs presenting their culinary best to Lechmann for evaluation. He documented the competition on camera and will share a presentation about the experience with the College’s Professional Cook Training students.
It was not all work for Lechmann who also had the opportunity to explore the area. He found the locals very generous with their time and hospitality; his taxi driver Juan even brought him home to have dinner with his family.
“To be able to immerse myself in the culture and to learn traditional cooking techniques from a family in their own home was an incredibly valuable experience,” continues Lechmann. “Costa Ricans have a true passion for cooking and for providing top-notch service. I hope to pass these ways of thinking on to our students here at COTR.”
All of Lechmann’s learning was not of the culinary variety, however. “Overall the entire trip was very humbling,” he recalls. “The Costa Rican people are not materialistic like we can be in Canada. That really made an impact on me. I am reminded that I need to be less wasteful.”
Learn more about College of the Rockies Professional Cook Training program.