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Epicurious

The art of food

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While gymnasts were flipping and twirling across floor mats and Michael Phelps was making history in the pool, there was at least one person busy behind the scenes, representing Sea to Sky country, and Canada, at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Squamish chef Collin Gill, was hard at work in the commissary kitchen preparing meals at B.C. Pavilion, which was an unbelievable experience for the long-time local resident.

"It was fantastic; China was just incredibly exciting," Gill said. He chuckled and added: "I was excited about eating more than anything."

The Canadian team worked alongside local chefs who took the visiting chefs on intimate restaurant tours, shining some light on the hidden gems of their culinary world along the way.

Now, Gill is gearing up to participate in another Olympic event, though this time, it's a bit closer to home.

Gill is hosting the second evening of Wild for Food, a culinary event held as part of Squamish's fifth annual Wild At Art festival. The event features culinary demos by local chefs alongside samplings and wine tasting, plus live entertainment and art.

George Chang, a chef and owner of Pause Café and Kitchen Corner, first took on the task of organizing the Wild For Food event last year.

"When I put the café together in the Squamish Adventure Centre, my idea was to do cooking shows and... wine tasting classes," Chang said. However, his envisioned partnership with Capilano University never came to fruition.

But Chang was able to put his plan into action during the Wild At Art festival last year.

"Nobody ever thinks that food is part of the artistic culture, but it is, in a way," he said.

The first evening, Monday, March 9, features cuisine with a French flair, courtesy of Liz Abbey, the owner/operator of Coast Mountain Catering, while the second evening, hosted by Gill, showcases local ingredients. Both evenings will feature wine education classes with Julie Wallace, a local expert who will take attendees through the basics of selecting wines.

Gill has quite close ties to the Squamish community. Aside from living there today, he was actually raised in the town until Grade 9.

"In high school, I was just working at a restaurant and I just felt that it was something I could do, so I decided to go to chef training at BCIT and then I enjoyed that, I did well and I got an apprenticeship at the Westin."

The apprenticeship at the Westin Bayshore helped solidify his career choice.

"I think it was about at that point, when I started my actual apprenticeship, that something clicked, that this went from, 'I really like this,' to 'I think I really love this,'" Gill said.

His passion continued to grow, as he moved on to work for restaurants throughout Canada, the United States and Europe before finally finding his current calling as a culinary arts instructor at Vancouver Community College almost five years ago.

Today, he passes along his skill and knowledge to new chefs in training.

"It's kind of similar to working in a hotel kitchen, in a sense that instead of running an operational day and teaching people the craft, you're just teaching people the craft," he pointed out.

Gill was eager to lend his expertise at the upcoming Wild For Food event, which he saw as a good opportunity to expose people to new tastes and culinary experiences.

"We're showcasing the corridor and the community and it's just a fun art event," he said.

Always the teacher, Gill also saw the event as a great opportunity for the culinary students at Howe Sound Secondary, inviting them to come out and get their feet wet with a large event.

"They'll work in kitchen and do prep with me, and they'll come with me over to the Adventure Centre," he said, adding that some will work on stage, while others will be doing behind the scenes work. "...I'm sure it will be all very exciting for them."

Gill, an advocate of using local ingredients, hasn't nailed down his menu for the evening yet, but is toying around with using Pemberton beef and other local produce.

"It is winter, so we'll see what I can get," he pointed out. "But I do believe in using local cuisine. It's a thing of the future and it's real."

This year, VANOC has also come on board, adding the two-day Wild For Food event to their 2009 Cultural Olympiad calendar.

For just $15 each night, Wild For Food is a can't-miss event for any aspiring food and wine aficionados out there. Over half are already sold for each night, so pick your tickets up from the Adventure Centre soon!

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