This program has been approved by the Private Training Institution Branch (PTIB) of the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training.
- Introduction to the Pastry Kitchen
- Pies and Tarts
- Quick Breads
- Creams and Custards
- Cream Puffs and Eclairs
- Artisan Breads
- Gluten Free Breads
- Brioche and Challah Breads
- Sugar Confections
- Science of ingredients
- Science of heat
- Buttercream Cakes
- Celebration Cakes
- Caramel Confections
- Create your own High Tea Service Midterm
- Cakes and Introduction to Cake Decorating
- Mousse Cakes
- Gluten Free, Vegan and Raw Baking
- Frozen Desserts
- Preservation Techniques
- Food Costing
- Puff Pastries, Croissants, Danishes
- Molded Chocolates
- Rolled Chocolates and Truffles
- Allergies and other Dietary Restrictions
- Portfolio Development
- Plated Desserts
- Plated Dessert Service: Students invite guests
Also covered during the course are hygiene and food safety, menu design, and industry stages
Anatomy of a day
A typical day at NWCAV is unique to most schools simply because we structure each day to get more done, more intensely, practically, and efficiently than other schools. Below is a snapshot; however, if you are in Vancouver, we highly suggest you spend a few hours with us in our kitchens to witness first-hand what we are all about.
- Pastry instructors arrive at the school around 7:30am. Doors open to the students at 8am. Classes start at 9:00am for Pastry.
- We gather in the common kitchen area, an all-in-one classroom/demo/kitchen area. This specifically designed theatre allows its teachers and students to perform seamlessly from one dish/technique to another.
- We start even before 9am by scaling the day’s recipes. Each station has a drawer for each partner and these drawers are transferable between stations. This is especially useful as all the tools you require are within hands reach.
- The wooden counter tops of each station table are ideal for rolling pastry dough, kneading bread dough, and each station has a marble slab for chocolate tempering, handling molten sugar, and working with temperature-sensitive mediums.
- At 9am sharp we discuss the day’s game plan, focusing on specific techniques inherent in specific recipes and dishes. We commence with precise demonstration while at the same time discussing its concise theory (most schools perform theory in room filled with desks; we do it in conjunction with our physical demos).
- Students are teamed in pairs (teams change every week) and create their own game plan before moving into the kitchen; this promotes clear communication, organization, time-management, accountability, and solidifies understanding of the demo’s key points – all, again, vital skills demanded by the industry.
- Students work in an island-configured kitchen, never facing a wall, maintaining clear lines of communication between instructors and students, facilitating movement, flow, and coaching.
- Guidelines, timelines and often deadlines are given to further promote an understanding and respect for the importance of quality communication, organization, game planning, multi-tasking, time-management, choreography, skill development, etc.. These are the very tangible industry skills which separate the home cook from the professional.
- Executed preparations are gathered, critiqued, tasted, and improvements discussed. Then the next technique/dish is demonstrated and theorized, executed, and tasted.
This sort of rhythm proceeds throughout the day, most often 3-4 times, and this integration of theory, demo and kitchen-work allows us to cover more material on a hands-on basis. More importantly, it simulates and acclimates the student to the pace, intensity, and expectations of the real industry kitchen. Other “reality advantages” our teaching/learning style gives our students:
- It exposes your strengths and, more importantly, the key skills and attributes that need further focus, nurturing, and development. Most often, the key we work on is patience, patience, patience!
- We repeat key skills, like laminations, piping, bread dough, bread shaping, croissants, tarts, pastry creams, anglaise, all for the hands to gain confidence to tackle more complex techniques such as tempering chocolate, sugar work, or cake decorating.
- Though focused on European fine pastries and breads, our curriculum covers some pastries and flatbreads from around the world, and also gluten-free and alternative substitutions. Students are exposed to many quality ingredients and preparations. Our food cost, included in the tuition, far exceeds that of most culinary schools.
- Menu development projects allow students to express their creative palate.
- We convert the last week of each term into a “mock” restaurant where students create their own menus and practice them first before executing them – as part of their final practical exams – to an invited public and industry judges
All students experience a personal growth during their education. You soon realize that professional and personal development, especially in this field, go hand-in-hand.
Frequently Asked Questions
What requirements are expected of me?
First and foremost, we look for smart, diligent learners. The majority of our students have post-secondary education and a penchant for learning and research, are intellectually disciplined to come to class mentally ready, take good notes, and tune in to the theory. But post-secondary education is not a requirement. Being a mature, focused, and keen learner certainly is.
Secondly, we look for a solid work ethic – this is a demanding field. We expect you to be self-disciplined and focused for long periods of time. We take attendance seriously (please read application) …just as our industry colleagues do. Missing a day in a professional kitchen puts your team at a distinct disadvantage. It’s no different here.
And perhaps just as important, we look for mature, considerate human beings. Everyone is different, coming from various backgrounds and experience levels, and not every day will be a perfect day. We foster the virtues of patience and mindful communication, something this industry can use more of. We’re not a “Yes Chef!” kind of school, but instead take a higher road when it comes to dealing with complex human interactions and its challenges.
Do I need industry experience?
No, we are a school after all, not a restaurant. And it’s not as if you were born yesterday and are new at the concept of food and cooking. We can do a lot with the your obvious passion for food, but we do expect you to fully understand and appreciate the intensity and work ethic of this profession. If you do have industry experience, great, yet we expect you to clean the slate and learn with a completely open mind. Often we’ve had to work harder with students who were convinced they knew better.
What can I expect from my instructors?
Foremost, we are committed to the most important part of your education: our attention and support. Our low student-teacher ratio affords that. Being owners as well, it affords going the extra mile, and this is what separates us from any school model.
We talk to you as an adult and peer, never down to you, to best support you through eventual mistakes. Some chef-instructors emphasize the “chef” in their title and the “realities” of their industry experience. We emphasize the “instructor” in ours and the reality of your education. This is about you!
Finally, Northwest is a student-driven school. We elicit your feedback and use the information to stay ahead of the curve. It’s a practice many smart chefs are adopting in their industry kitchens to maximize intellectual and creative output. It’s also what smart businesses – and especially schools – do.
What are some interesting stats about Northwest and its student body?
Average student age = 26.5
% of females/males: 55/45 (historically)
% of international students = 25%
% of students with post-secondary education = 75%
% of career changers = 65%
% of curriculum that changes term to term: 10%
% of attrition: 4% historically (usually due to personal reasons)
% of students who successfully graduate: 95%
% who find work in the industry: never heard of a student who could not find work.
% who still work in the industry years after graduation: too difficult to determine, but this is a legitimate question, as this is an industry that provides opportunity but does not do a great job sustaining its own people. Which is why we encourage our students to take an entrepreneurial approach to their career, and this has proven to be effective in encouraging our grads to take advantage of their first few years in the industry and always plan for “owning” your craft one day. The other thing to consider is how to define “the industry”. We have had students who works as farmers, in education, health and nutrition, in wineries, bed and breakfasts, and run their own successful food photography/social media businesses. To us, the industry of food is changing – even though it may not fit under a “traditional” model.
Do you teach business management principles?
Yes, we formally teach the fundamental math of a food business, and throughout the course we do creative exercises which address the parts and mechanisms of smart business sustainability. Moreover, we showcase the school itself as a solid and forward-thinking business model, from inception to evolution, often referring to our in-house business practices. We formally discuss how to plan and execute your business idea one day, bringing to your attention things books don’t talk about, like mechanical engineers, city hall codes, social media, and what connections to make before signing a lease. As owners, we make such information more transparent and digestible, and make ourselves available at any point to discuss your ideas. Many of our successful grads with their own businesses have done just that.
Why is your program shorter than most professional culinary schools?
Firstly, our kitchen design allows us to get more performed in a day than most schools, and we put more instructor bodies on the floor to achieve this. Second, we put our students to work on Day 1 and treat them as high-functioning mature adults – not “kids” – who can absorb and achieve an intensive pace. The reality is that this profession IS intensive, requiring the ability to absorb, adjust, and integrate quickly. In other words, we reflect this intensity, which is why focus, attendance, and commitment to your education is vital to your success moving forward.
Is the program ITA approved for Red Seal Level I
Not our Pastry program. If a student wishes to do the Commercial Baking Red Seal, we can recommend some local businesses that would be able to sponsor a student. Culinary students do qualify for Level I of their Cooks Red Seal after completing a practical and theory exam. The exams are written and practical performed at our school AFTER graduation at an assigned date.And we can then sponsor our grads for their hours in the industry (anywhere in the world) towards their Level II & III.
Why don’t you have a restaurant?
Simple. Our industry colleagues do. Why pay full tuition for what you can and ought to be learning in real industry surrounded by people who show you serious craft? We connect our students in various professional kitchens for after-class work observations (on a volunteer basis). This begins your networking, your understanding of various styles of industry kitchens, and these observations count towards Red Seal hours. We do, however, convert our school into a “restaurant” setting for the practical final exams, where students create and serve a 14-course tasting menu served to their guests and our colleagues. Yes, 14!
Where do your ingredients come from and what value systems do you subscribe to?
The majority of our produce is organic, sourced from places like Glorious Organics and Barnston Farms. We source local when possible, and often purchase the old-fashioned way: by shopping ourselves. We apply a strict total utilization and waste management program to maximize our privilege with these ingredients. Any food leftover from our daily practice is donated to local charities.
What styles of cuisines will I be learning?
The range is quite global: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Latino, Asian, classical French, Indian, etc.. The common language is techniques, but we also delve into modern and ancient practices. What characterizes Northwest cuisine, or its approach to food, is its open-mindedness to seek and learn new styles on a dime.
Do you cover wine?
Yes, but only at an introductory level. We do taste a few throughout the term. And we taste some local beer too.
What are some areas you cover which are not typically covered by most schools?
Over the years our students have initiated practices which we as culinary instructors had not considered, let alone been taught by our past. Fermentation has become a big topic of interest, Sandor Katz, the fermentation guru, spoke and demonstrated at our school years ago and we still make his kimchi and many of our own fermented and preserved products. And there are skills we have discovered which give students a greater advantage moving forward. For example, encouraging more precise drawing to express ideas, use of media to expedite demos, open discussion of less-than-fair industry practices, video projects, how to stay healthy in a profession that taxes the body, simple yoga poses and stretches to mitigate back, knee, and shoulder pain, and discussing the food experience after it is swallowed (over 40 nutrition practitioners have graduated from Northwest over the years).
Can I work while going to school?
Yes, but due to the intensive nature of the program we HIGHLY recommend no more than 20 hours per week, and depending on our assessment of your application, none at all. Leaving learning behind makes no sense to your educational investment.
Where is the best area to live in Vancouver?
We are very centrally located in a residential area where many students from all schools live. We are also very easily accessible from any point in the city. For those coming out of town, we recommend finding an apartment to live nearby the school. Keep in mind Vancouver is considered an expensive city for rent.
Are you a professionally designated institution?
Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver is a designated institution, certified by the Private Training Institutions Branch.
Other Professional Programs
Intense, 15 week full-time professional program focusing on techniques, ingredients, global cuisines, creativity, modern thinking, and mindful values.
One Year Culinary & Pastry/Bread
Includes both the professional culinary and pastry programs, plus a 480 hour industry Co-op. For those seeking a broader set of skills and honing them with real industry experience with our guidance.
Such a great school! Amazing instructors and great curriculums. Absolutely no regrets taking the one year program.
Great school and highly recommended! Just finished the professional pastry/bread making course — really enjoyed it and learned so much. This place is not a drive by, as they say in real estate — make an appt. to talk to the chefs to find out about the program.
Went in being comfortable in the kitchen and graduated the Professional Program confident in the kitchen. All the chef instructors, culinary & pastry sides, know their craft. It’s an intense experience but totally doable if cooking is what you want to do. The knowledge you can gain is pretty amazing. I’m constantly going back and repeating lessons and recipes I learned in school. Both to sharpen my skills and because the food you learn to cook is damn tasty. Going to Northwest was one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself in the pursuit of food knowledge. Whether you’re mature or fresh-faced, Northwest is the choice to make.
Amazing program from day 1 through graduation and BEYOND. This is the best culinary program Vancouver has to offer. The class structure and curriculum paired with right instructors ensure that you are industry ready upon graduation and that you will have ongoing support and guidance whenever needed. I can’t say enough great things about this place. I owe my career to NWCAV.
NWCAV is a fabulous school. I researched plenty of schools in Canada and the USA. Choosing NWCAV was the best educational decision I could have made. The program is thoughtfully crafted to provide the education needed to properly prepare one for the industry. Over the years following graduation, I have had the opportunity to work closely with the instructors through other venues and have witnessed them grow, change and adapt. They listen to their students and their needs/wants. The instructors are professional and friendly, and I can say ten years later that the education I received has helped me for life.