Chef James Olberg returns to Bocuse D’Or as older competitor
Originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, he used to work at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto. In 1990, he enrolled in the cook apprentice program at George Brown College. Although Humber was already operating, he said “back then there was only George Brown really; that was the school to go to.”
Describing his years in school, Olberg said his classmates were great and his teachers phenomenal. John Higgins used to be his instructor, and they are still in touch today.
Thinking of the brightest college memory, Olberg refers to being a part of a George Brown culinary team and participating in the Taste of Canada competition. Having won almost every category, Olberg is especially proud of a gold medal in the hot food category.
Even though it was not his first time taking part in culinary competitions, he said he really got the first taste of competing while being a student at George Brown.
“It was a perfect relationship between myself, the school and my work. The combination of both helped me develop and mature as a person and a cook,” he said.
Since then, Olberg has moved around the country, with stops at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel, the Tiara Restaurant in Niagara-On-The-Lake and Glowbal in Vancouver. “I went wherever the job I wanted to do was,” he explained.
As a member of Culinary Team Canada and the Canadian Culinary Federation, chef Olberg has previously won four silver medals Bocuse D’or, an international event where chefs compete in front of a live audience. In 2017, he will be representing his country and his school once again in Lyon, France.
Olberg said it is quite humbling for him to be there because he is older than most of the competitors. It will be challenging either way, he said, as he sees advantages and disadvantages to being an older competitor. Olberg feels he will be more comfortable with a five-hour competition than 15 years ago. “Back then I wouldn’t have the sense of calmness that I have now.”
“It’s more sentimental for me at my age,” he adds, being touched by all the support he has been receiving. The Chef’s House has shown its respect by holding a Hot Chefs & Cool Jazz fundraising event for Olberg on Nov. 11. “The environment they have created there is great,” said Olberg.
In April 2016, the Bocuse D’or training will begin. Developing the program and endless practicing is what chef Olberg will have to go through to be able to cook 14 portions of selected meat and fish meals during the competition.
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