NIC Spotlight: Culinary champ well-prepped for work in food trade

North Island College culinary graduate Ellianna Dyble, with a recent gold medal in hand, is finding the recipe for future success in her trade.

She won top honours at the Skills Canada BC Provincials, held in Abbotsford on April 19. The event features some of the province’s brightest talent in trades and technology—in everything from animation to welding. In all, more than 300 competitors took part in more than 55 trades and technology categories Mark Isfeld Secondary’s Ella Oldaker also won gold in culinary arts among secondary students.

“Ellianna’s qualities are organization, technical skills, determination and focus when she embarks on new challenges,” said Chef Xavier Bauby, who teaches at NIC. “This is the recipe for winning such a competition.”

With the win, Dyble reserves a spot in the Skills Canada Nationals in May, but she will be travelling in Africa and Europe then, so the runner-up will attend instead.

Dyble always liked cooking and signed up for NIC’s culinary program, starting in 2021. She completed the last level of her schooling in December 2022.

She has also been working at Locals Restaurant at the Old House in Courtenay since November 2021. Despite her longtime enjoyment in the kitchen, she realized once she started taking classes how much she had to learn.

“I had a lot to learn” she said. “It was interesting to learn the theory behind the process.”

She has learned a lot since. For the Skills Canada BC event, she had to come up with a chicken Kiev, turned mushroom, pureed vegetable and classically cut vegetable.

“We had a mystery element, which was starch,” she said.

She’d practised using other starches like quinoa, rice and barley. The mystery starch turned out to be potato, but if it caught her off guard, she adapted. She topped the meal off with a Bavarian cream dessert that required a surprise fruit—in this case, pineapple. There were some other challenges along the way, such as having enough water on hand, but her training from Chef Bauby and others, along with her work experience, helped her over the three-and-a-half hours.

“Chef Xavier prepared me for the event really well. He’s done it many times,” she said.

This was her first Skills BC event, but she took part in the Culinary Apprentice of the Year event at Vancouver Community College last October where she placed second. Chef Ronald St. Pierre, Locals co-founder, had helped her get ready for that event.

She also served as a member of Junior Culinary Team Canada for a few months last year. “It was an amazing learning experience," she said. “It expanded my knowledge and experience, beyond simply working or schooling.”

Along with her NIC courses, she also credits the work experience at Locals, where Oldaker also works, with St. Pierre and new co-owner/chef Jonathan Frazier for helping her learn the importance of working on tight timelines.

The Province’s 2022-23 Labour Market Update lists cooks as among the skilled trades with the most projected job openings over the next decade. Dyble is not certain where she wants to end up and would like to travel, but she is definitely thinking her future will include food.

“Any time that I can learn new things is really my interest,” she said.

North Island College offers Professional Cook 1,2 and 3 programs, a Prep Cook Certificate, Culinary Business Operations Certificate and Culinary Business Operations Diploma. For more info on NIC’s culinary arts programs, see /