Gus Koenigsfest practises his cooking skills at Carson Grahahm Secondary in North Vancouver on Aug. 11, 2021. | North Vancouver School District
By Ben Bengtson, North Shore News.
An Argyle Secondary graduate and chef de cuisine is sharpening his knives and getting his prep work ready in order to represent Canada at an upcoming culinary showdown.
Gus Koenigsfest, who graduated in 2016, is set to represent the country at the 2021 La Chaine des Rotisseurs International Young Chefs Competition in Paris, France next month.
As a kid, Koenigsfest dreamt more about sautéing and searing than he did space exploration or singing. Being a chef was something he always knew he wanted to be.
“My parents would always let me cook,” notes Koenigsfest, who says growing up his household was full of trial-and-error gastronomy and plenty of Food Network. “For whatever reason, it was always something I wanted to do.”
He got a job at a local chain restaurant at age 15, and by the time Grade 12 rolled around he was enrolled at Carson Graham Secondary’s culinary trades program.
While in the program, he was introduced to Scott Jaeger, chef and owner of Burnaby’s acclaimed – and now closed – Pear Tree Restaurant, who became his mentor.
Through his teachers’ and mentor’s tutelage, Koenigsfest joined Culinary Team Canada and he got to attend the 2016 Culinary Olympics in Germany.
Watching his mentor work a service was just the inspiration Koenigsfest needed to motivate him to take his craft further.
“Just the precision was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I knew that was the kind of cooking I wanted to start doing,” says Koenigsfest.
In 2019, Koenigsfest won the gold medal and an award for kitchen excellence at the Canadian National Competition.
This summer Koenigsfest has been using Carson Graham’s large industrial kitchen to practice for the upcoming competition, where he will be tasked with creating two savoury dishes and a dessert course in under four hours.
“The competition is a black box, which means I won’t know what I’ll be getting until on the day. But I’m making a little framework of what I might try to do.”
As a young cook, Koenigsfest says he has relished the skills he’s learned through cooking competitions, which force participants to learn hard techniques quickly.
“You have to cook a complete menu, you have to cook the protein – you’ve got to do the whole thing all by yourself,” says Koenigsfest.
He says it’s a fun honour to be able to represent the country at the competition, especially since the Olympic Games in Tokyo have just wrapped up.
“It’s a really cool feeling,” he says. “I’m just happy for all the support from everybody and hope to represent us well.”
The competition takes place from Sept. 22 to 27.