It can be difficult for young adults to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives while they are in high school. Not only did Durham College Culinary Management graduate Victoria Rinsma know what she wanted to do before college, she started doing it.
Growing up, Rinsma spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother. This inspired her to study culinary arts in high school, which led to her participating locally, and later, nationally, in cooking competitions.
“Cooking was and is an important thing in my family,” Rinsma says.
Even before she was a student at Durham College she was involved with the with the Centre for Food. Rinsma was coached by professors at the CFF while her high school was on strike. During the strike she could not have contact with any of her high school teachers and coaches, so the CFF invited her for training before she competed in the Skills Ontario Competition.
Eventually, and while still in high school, Rinsma started winning medals in culinary competitions.
In both 2014 and 2015 she won gold medals in the Durham Culinary Competition. She then won a gold medal in Ontario Culinary Skills in 2015. This gave her the opportunity to compete at the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) in Saskatoon in 2015. There she competed against 12 other students, one from each province, and earned a silver medal.
After she won gold at Skills Ontario, Rinsma decided to study culinary management at Durham College in Whitby.
“The fact that she chose us afterwards was a bonus for us,” says Chef David Hawey, a full-time culinary professor at the CFF.
During her time at the college, Rinsma won several awards. In 2017, she was the culinary student gold medalist for Durham College. The award included being sent to Italy to train at the Italian Culinary Institute with local and student chefs. She made the Durham College Honour Roll in both 2015 and 2016 and was on the President’s Honour Roll in 2017.
“If we were going to have a poster child, it would be her,” says culinary management program coordinator chef Peter Lee.
According to Lee and associate dean for the Centre for Food Tony Doyle, Rinsma volunteered for almost every extra-curricular event the college offered while she was here. Doyle even hired Rinsma and her friend and colleague Kristin Atwood to cater his wedding last year.
“Victoria was just one of those students,” says Doyle
Doyle says Rinsma wasn’t afraid to question what was happening in the kitchen or classroom. Hawey says she made suggestions to change things for the better. According to Hawey, the suggestions she made didn’t just make things better for Rinsma, they often made things better for her classmates.
“She was super invested and wanting to do well,” said Hawey.
Rinsma worked at Bistro ’67 where she worked alongside Chef Raul Sojo developing the menu and creating desserts. Rinsma had a desert named after her called Victoria’s Piñata. She worked alongside Sojo to create the dessert made from a meringue sphere that contained fresh berries, chocolate cake, passionfruit cream, and sweet mango gel.
“She showed up at the B’67 at 7 a.m. without being scheduled until 4 p.m. and asked to be put to work,” Sojo says, adding Rinsma would often show up early in the morning and be at the college long after most students and staff had left.
“She’s a machine, she just goes, goes, goes, and goes,” he says.
Rinsma used to walk the garden at the CFF every day looking to see what was ready for harvest. The Bistro uses fresh ingredients grown on campus and locally to create dishes on its menu.
On top of her current studies, Rinsma is now helping develop new menus for Bistro ’67 from Ireland, where she is studying for her bachelor’s degree in culinary arts.
“She plays an important role in our kitchen,” said Sojo.
Rinsma is still winning awards even now. In February, she earned a bronze medal for her Irish Beef Fillet at the Chef Ireland Culinary Competition in Dublin.