Cowichan Campus

Cowichan Culinary Arts Certificate Program

Cowichan Culinary Kitchen

Our 10.5 month Certificate program is designed to train students for a career in culinary arts. Our goal is to create a sophisticated, hands-on program that encourages student success in a broad range of current industry skills, knowledge, and methods. Students are registered as apprentices withSkilledTradesBC and graduates will receive Professional Cook Level I and II certification and credit for 1200 work-based training hours to apply towards their Cook Red Seal. Graduates are ready to begin working as cooks in a wide range of culinary enterprises or even start up their own businesses.

The program focuses on products grown and harvested in the Cowichan Valley and uses method-based training to expose students to entrepreneurial concepts and community-based values. Students explore culinary arts through a variety of different spaces including our student kitchen, heat and eat product line, and community events. The program fosters inquiry, reflection and action while incorporating a wide range of culinary experiences in the kitchen and classroom, resulting in graduates ready to take their place as future industry leaders.

The Culinary Arts Certificate program includes a 10-week co-operative work experience from mid-June to August.  This is a paid work opportunity that gives students valuable industry experience and a job to list on their resumes.  Many co-op placements turn into permanent positions for students.

Not ready to commit to the Culinary Arts Certificate program?  You can register for Professional Cook I and II as separate programs and exit after either of these completion points. Your training will assist you in finding work in a variety of culinary venues.  

Classes are located at the Cowichan Campus in Duncan, BC and are in session 4 days per week, Monday - Thursday, 7:30 am to 2:30 pm.

How to Apply

All programs consist of 75% practical, hands-on experience and 25% theory including topics such as food preparation, kitchen management, and cooking methods. Course content includes:

  • Knife skills, kitchen safety & organization
  • Vegetable & starch production
  • Meat, poultry, seafood butchery & cooking methodology
  • Preparation of stocks, soups, & sauces
  • Baking and desserts
  • Real-life line experience setting up and operating the Café (our student-run restaurant)

Career Opportunities

  • Graduates of the Culinary Arts program leave with a sound knowledge of the basics of professional cooking. Becoming a recognized chef requires years of work experience.
  • Students who excel in this program are in high demand, and many have attained top-level positions in five-star hotels, restaurants, resorts, and private clubs in Canada and around the world. Graduates have also found employment in institutional kitchens, hospitals, retirement homes, BC Ferries, the film & movie industry, catering, and camps.
  • Students with entrepreneurial dreams have started small-scale food processing businesses making grab and go, heat and eat, and other specialty food products found at farmer’s markets, farm stands and grocery stores.
  • Students have shared their love of food by teaching cooking classes and writing food related articles, blogs, and even books.
  • Graduates can use their culinary certification as a stepping stone to further education such as VIU’s Culinary Management Diploma program.
  • Chefs in the industry recognize the expertise of VIU’s Culinary Arts graduates and regularly contact program instructors seeking graduates for local, national, and international employment opportunities.

Meet The Faculty

Chef Francois DeJong 

Francois de Jong, Culinary Arts Instructor

Raised on the west coast in a food-focused family, Francois knew at an early age that he wanted to be a chef. He graduated from the Culinary Arts program at The College of New Caledonia, completed his apprenticeship and earned his Red Seal Certification at La Belle Auberge under the watchful eye of Chef Bruno Marti. There, Francois learned the joys of culinary competitions and started networking with chefs in Canada and around the world. Francois has a wide range of culinary experiences from small farm-to-table restaurants, hotels, private chef opportunities, and opening restaurants in China, to camp cooking for major Hollywood movies. Having moved to Nanaimo in 2006, he enjoys an active outdoor lifestyle with his family and friends where most activities either start or finish with food. Teaching in the VIU Culinary Arts department has been a natural transition from working in restaurants and creates a space for him to work with, mentor and train alongside the next generation of cooks. For more information feel free to contact Instructor Francois de Jong at

Chelsea Tunnell

Chelsea Tunnell, Culinary Assistant & Red Seal Pastry Chef

Born and raised in Quebec, Chelsea moved to the West coast as a teenager and attended VIU’s Professional Baking and Pastry Arts program in 2010. Chelsea completed her apprenticeship here in Nanaimo and has a passion for scratch-made baking, French pastries and fire! Whether it’s a wood-fired oven or cooking family meals over the campfire her love of sharing food is why she entered the industry. Her favourite things to do in the kitchen are laminating doughs, high hydration bread and anything fermented. Living on Vancouver Island has expanded her love for wild and foraged foods and she can be found scavenging the forest floor when not in the kitchen. With hopes of one day becoming a full-time instructor at VIU, Chelsea also works as a relief-instructor in the Professional Baking and Pastry Arts program at VIU's Nanaimo campus.