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And just like that, on a blustery afternoon in late October, a journey that began six months earlier—the summer but a promise, the future wide open and entirely uncertain—came to an end.

The farewell, bittersweet.

As much as I derided Toronto during my stint as a resident, I came to appreciate, even like the place. Big, bustling, a beacon for all those looking for a fresh start, a bit of fun, a next step, a new phase—I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in the Big Smoke.

At turns exhausting and exhilarating, hectic and hilarious, heart-breaking and utterly brilliant: this was my Toronto.

To my Brüs and fellow Belongers, thank you for your camaraderie and your gallows humour, for your supportive advice and welcome criticism, for schooling me in “would you rather” and in honest work, for the chance to prepare some great food together and have fun doing it.

To Brad, thank you for such an incredible opportunity, for the faith you placed in me and the confidence that it instilled in me, for the openness with which you welcomed me into your Belong family, and for inspiring me with your ethos of sustainability, of community, of belonging.

To my flatmates, thank you for making our house a home (even if it was a chaotic one) and a hub for like-minded souls, for being so loving and so familial, for giving me endless memories of mornings, afternoons, evenings and late-nights.

Most of all, thank you to the indefatigable, incomparable Charlotte. Without you, none of it would have ever been possible. You are a dear friend and an incredible cook; your passion infectious, your creativity inspiring, your heart enormous.

I’ve never been a big fan of farewells. I prefer the promise of meeting again, of reuniting with friends old and new, of picking up where we left off, of keeping the bonds, once forged, unbroken.

À bientôt, mes amis.

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Among the many things I learned this past summer from my chef and sous chef at the golf club was the importance of working cleanly. This sounds like a no-brainer, a given, a goes-without-saying element of cookery. It is — though “working cleanly” doesn’t really capture the paramount importance they place on it.

For working cleanly isn’t just a means to avoiding a run-in with the health inspector; no, working cleanly — and I mean crystal — is the foundation of their overall philosophy about cooking. And it’s one I now share, even if it means my hands are dried and cracked, having been exposed to various cleaners, soaps, sanitizers and disinfectants on a daily basis for months.

Working cleanly means being organized.

A disorganized cook — who doesn’t think about how she or he is doing something, anything, even the simplest of tasks — will inevitably prepare messy food and produce even messier plates.

Being organised requires planning, foresight and attention detail.

For every action — be it peeling carrots, transferring a hot liquid from one vessel to another, handling raw meat — the organised cook considers all aspects of it: what’s involved; how best to use utensils and other necessary equipment; ensuring these tools have been gathered in advance; moving deliberately yet carefully to avoid spillage, slippage, seepage or stupid mistakes.

Of course, all of these measures mustn’t impede swiftness.

And therein lies the great great challenge of working cleanly: doing so as fast, if not even faster, than the cook who cuts corners for the sake of expediency.

Have I mastered the art of working cleanly? Am I supremely organized when I cook? Do I move with the speed and grace of a cheetah? Hell no!

Am I a fierce adherent to my chef’s philosophy? Absolutely.

If only I could find a holster for my can of Comet

It’s been almost a month now since I started my work term. Time has flown by and I have been having a blast.

With the weather slowly improving, the number of reservations is growing, the pace of the kitchen quickening.

I’m working the evening shift right now, which means my day starts at 2 p.m. and finishes anytime between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. During that time, I help finish up lunch service, handle any final prep for the evening and, if time permits, the following morning. All the while anticipation builds for the ensuing evening.

Every now and then I steal a moment for myself, taking a seat on an overturned milk crate, taking in the din of the air conditioning unit and the view of the dumpster across the staff parking lot whilst enjoying a cup of hot, albeit stale coffee. In it’s own rugged way, it’s blissful.

This past week was especially exciting: I had the chance to work the line alongside the executive chef. We were slammed, and he jumped in to help us push out a table for 20. I did my best to keep my cool, tending to the pickerel I was pan frying, steaks I was grilling and vegetables I was running to and from the steamer. It was intense, what with my chef keeping one eye on me, my methods and my timing. I managed okay.

Of course, what’s most extraordinary about times like those is how everyone, no matter their skill level, background, or depth of experience, pulls together, puts egos aside, and works like a cohesive team to get ‘er done.

And we did.

So far, so good.

What a difference a year makes.

Last summer I was gallivanting about Europe and North Africa; this summer, I am working the line in Winnipeg.

Red River College’s culinary arts program has a co-operative education component, which means I spend two-thirds of the program in the “classroom,” and a final third in the “real world.” During this, my first work placement (the second, next summer), I will be at a golf and country club in the southern end of the city.

It’s an ideal spot to get my sea legs, grow my skills, expand my knowledge, and gain some genuine work experience. Better still, I’ll be required to assist with all kinds of cooking; from short-order breakfasts and lunches, to fine dining dinners and banquets.

Why just the other night, we prepared a 6-course, seafood dinner for 80, including halibut with sweet potato mash and a vanilla bean-infused beurre blanc (top), seafood terrine with dill sauce and micro greens (middle), and wasabi-crusted salmon with a butter-poached rock lobster and a crispy parsnip garnish (bottom).

Granted, it’s early days yet, but so far, I’m loving it — and look forward to a busy summer spent on the line.