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Estevan student dreaming big

Selected for best teen chef competition

An Estevan Comprehensive School student with big dreams is preparing for the biggest competition of his life.

Carl Recolaso was recently chosen to participate in the Best Teen Chef competition, which is sponsored by the prestigious Art Institute of Vancouver. He will be travelling to the B.C. city in late April to compete in a cook-off with nine other teen chefs.

A Grade 12 student at ECS, Recolaso submitted an essay as well as a photo and recipe of his curried pasta dish, to judges. His submission impressed them enough to earn one of the 10 coveted spots in the competition. It also helped him take the next step towards his dream of attending the Art Institute and becoming a world-renowned chef.

"I was crying when I found out," Carl said of his reaction to learning he cracked the Top 10. "Getting that dream at this early point of my life is really an achievement. And considering that I am from another country and I am getting my dreams here is really awesome. I was really emotional and when I was writing the essay (about why he wanted to attend the Art Institute) I was really emotional too."

A love of cooking and the dream of becoming a chef go a long way back for Carl and also for his family. His father has been a professional cook since Carl was an infant. He had planned to taking cooking in the Philippines but moved to Canada with his family almost two years ago.

"It started in the Philippines," Carl said of his love for cooking. "When you cook, it's something that you can bring your own personality into. When you make a dish, you want it to be yourself as well; it's not just making a dish, and it's part of yourself. Mixing all your ingredients, bringing all the flavours and plating it, it's all about yourself. It's really awesome."

Carl had intended on entering the Best Teen Chef competition last year but missed the deadline. However, when the call for entries went out in February, he jumped at the oppourtunity. Now that he has moved onto the next phase of the competition, Carl said he plans to make the most of his shot.

In the days leading up to his April 30 departure for Vancouver, Carl will be studying and improving his cooking techniques with the help of his father who will be serving as Carl's coach.

"Working with my dad is going to be both a pleasure and pressure," said Carl. "I know him, he is a very tough chef he has been working in the food industry since I was two-years-old. Just training with him is going to be awesome, but at the same time it is going to be nerve-wracking because he will be watching me step by step. But I am really excited to have him teaching him everything he knows."

Although he admits to being nervous, Carl said he is excited and expects the butterflies to dissipate as the competition draws nearer. He is also helped along by the knowledge that the Vancouver event is just the first step in his overall plan - becoming one of the best-known chefs in the world.

"I want to ring honour to my family, myself and my country," he said. "I also want to represent not only Filipinos, but all of the people that leave their country to go for their dreams. I have been there once and it really takes a lot of courage and sacrifice to go out there and leave your own comfort zone and chase your dreams.

"I want to be an inspiration for them, that is why I want to be big, I want to be known. I want to be a representative for them. Just getting into the competition is a really big step for me and getting into something that you really want is overwhelming."

The winner of next month's cook-off will receive a $5,000 scholarship to the culinary program at the Art Institute.