Some teachers go the extra mile for their students. Chef Darlene Godfrey has gone hundreds of miles for them.
Godfrey coordinates the culinary program of Coast Mountain College in northwest British Columbia, a 16-hour drive from Vancouver, Canada. The school serves 34 communities, 21 of which are First Nations, and is based in the traditional home of the Kitsumkalum and Kitselas tribes.
Over the course of her 15-year tenure with the college, Godfrey has packed up her kitchen supplies and flown into remote First Nation communities for months at a time to teach healthy cooking techniques, safety, and sanitation. She loves being immersed in the indigenous culture and experiencing their traditional dishes saying, “I’ve had the opportunity to prepare fresh local foods that a lot of people will never have.” That includes local boat-to-table favorites like sea urchins and seaweed encrusted with herring roe.
Godfrey grew up in British Columbia. As a teenager, she worked as a dishwasher and potato peeler at the restaurant her mother ran at a local hotel. Godfrey would go on to become a Red Seal chef, a prestigious Canadian certification. Though her work has been predominately based in British Columbia, her culinary approach has been anything but provincial. “I’m a sponge. When I work with people who’ve worked in other parts of the country or the world, I absorb their knowledge. That’s my skill,” she says.
These days, Godfrey commutes by car to Coast Mountain College’s main campus in the city of Terrace, rather than flying to remote villages. Her students are both indigenous and non-indigenous who share a single-minded commitment to their culinary craft. “I sometimes wonder why they’re picking such a hard trade, but then I see how they are transformed by their passion,” she says. “It’s a stressful industry. I don’t candy coat it for my students. But when it all comes together on time to the highest degree and the students are high-fiving around the kitchen–well, there’s nothing better than that.”
Why Mercer Culinary
“The tools we use are critical. If we have poor quality equipment, it makes our jobs more dangerous and more difficult, so it’s critical we have good quality product for students to work with.”