UBC Apprentice Dinner serving up affordable high-end dining experience 

The dinner—the first since the pandemic—is a chance for guests to enjoy a gourmet meal experience at an accessible $35 price tag in the beautiful setting of the Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre.

Fellow graduates of the Culinary Apprentice program in the kitchen working away at the Apprentice Dinner in 2019.

Photo credit: UBC Food Services.

UBC Food Services is celebrating the highly anticipated return of its Apprentice Dinner, a unique event where culinary apprentices design and execute a three-course high-end dining experience at an affordable price.  

Tickets sold out quickly in anticipation of the event. The dinner highlights the skills and creativity of graduates from UBC’s three-year culinary apprenticeship program, under the supervision of executive chef and culinary director David Speight.  

The dinner—the first since the pandemic—is a chance for guests to enjoy a gourmet meal experience at an accessible $35 price tag in the beautiful setting of the Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre. It also marks a significant achievement for the apprentices as they earn their Red Seal certification, a highly prestigious national certification of apprenticeship that serves as an endorsement of their skills and experience. 

We spoke with commissary chef Diana Lee and first cook Ligaya Laron, two UBC Food Services staff members who graduated from the program, about the event. 

What can guests expect from this dinner? 

Lee: It’s going to be a great event for those looking for a delicious and budget-friendly high-end dining experience. Attendees can see what it’s like being an apprentice and gain a better appreciation of preparing a gourmet meal.  

Laron: It’s going to be a celebration of the apprentices’ hard work and accomplishments. I’m personally looking forward to sharing my cooking and seeing how the skills I gained will contribute to the dinner. When I first started, I couldn’t believe I was going through these difficult times and now that I’ve gone through it, I feel accomplished. This dinner will be a completion of my hard work as I will finally ‘feel the magic’ of my efforts.  

Why did you decide to take part in the apprentice program at UBC? 

Lee: I thought it would be a great opportunity to advance my career as I was already working at UBC. I knew doing my apprenticeship at the university would allow me to experience working in different kitchen styles and gain a deeper understanding of the culinary world. Since then, I found my footing and worked my way up from being second cook to now a commissary chef. 

Laron: Besides getting ahead in my career, I wanted to change the way I think about my job and life. I wanted to develop my skills not just to become a better cook, but also to become comfortable in leadership. It’s good to know how to cook, but being able to lead and teach others after learning the skills myself is even more fulfilling.  

What are some easy ways to prepare a gourmet feast on a budget? 

Lee: Look for ingredients that are in season. For example, peach is a summer fruit so you want to avoid making a peach salad in the winter. Think about re-using all parts of the ingredients, including mushrooms and fish. I frequently use the stems of my shiitake mushroom to make a sauce. I would also say to consider paying attention to the sides and small parts of the dish. Most people tend to focus on the protein, but you can do so much with the sides.  

Laron: For me, I try to use what is available in front of me, including the seasonings, and prepare a meal based on that. You save a lot more by using ingredients already available in your pantry, that way you don’t need to buy more things. I also check out what’s available in my local grocery stores instead of looking out for specialty stores. 

UBC Food Services operates under Student Housing and Community Services, within the Vice-President, Students, portfolio.  

Media interested in attending and covering the Apprentice Dinner are asked to RSVP by emailing luixia.lee@ubc.ca. Interviews can be arranged in advance with UBC executive chef and culinary director David Speight, commissary chef Diana Lee, and first cook Ligaya Laron.