There are three certified Red Seal Chefs currently in the kitchen at the Red Rock Grill, thanks to its founder and co-owner James Clancy – who is one of them.
The other two Red Seal Chefs are Miles Theoret, who has worked at the restaurant for more than seven years, and Mike Nichols, who has been employed there for more than six.
James says they started out working as dishwashers and servers, and worked their way up into the kitchen by proving their enthusiasm, cooking skills and constant attention to providing quality meals — and nothing less.
While Miles is an experienced chef who (with James' support) obtained his Red Seal certification several years ago, he says he has happily watched his co-worker Mike – who has been his buddy since they were both in the "dish-pit" – achieve this level more recently.
"Mike is one of the hardest workers I know, and he's an excellent cook. He has a lot of skills he can apply in many places."
James says either Mike or Miles could go work almost anywhere – from Whistler to a cruise ship to Australia – because they have developed these abilities.
Miles explains he has struggled with hearing loss for years and that the program has helped him gain the confidence and skills along with his degree to work elsewhere, but says since he enjoys where he is now, is pursuing ownership instead.
"Myself, I started as a bottom-level server, and I've worked my way up now to being [one of James'] business partners, and that's quite a long way to go in seven-and-a-half years."
However, Miles points to Mike as also having progressed significantly since those days, and been quite successful in building his own career and income stability.
"I know a lot of guys look up to Mike now ... and see how far he's come."
Mike says the program has definitely helped him learn about the new aspects of preparing quality meals and menus.
"I learned about everything, like how to create specials – how to think of an idea – and it also helped me increase my skills and knowledge around a kitchen.
"I am now trying to embrace my leadership skills; it's something I need to get used to a little bit."
James adds like all his Red Seal Chefs, Mike has moved into a leadership position, and has "a lot of responsibility on him" to be a role model to the other staff.
He says his own inspiration to maintain this supportive environment came from growing up watching his father, Glen Clancy.
Also a Red Seal Chef, Glen put five or six apprentices (including James) through the program at Clancy's, a successful truck-stop restaurant he owned and ran for years in Lac la Hache.
While he's obliged to pay his staff more after they are certified, James explains it is worth the cost to gain their long-term commitment to quality in his kitchen.
"It's hard on you, because these apprentices go away for six weeks twice a year, so you are short staff, but they come back full of enthusiasm – full of great new ideas."
Lorne Allen has been on his staff for close to four years, and is a second year Red Seal apprentice, he adds.
"We also have one more upcoming apprentice, but we don't take on any apprentice until they have been here at least a year, because we need to see that dedication and work ethic first."
Noting his kitchen staff are never pushed into taking this step if they don't wish to, James says he has employed several staff members with disabilities, who gain the same encouragement to develop skills and leadership through the Red Seal program.
James explains he brings on new Red Rock staff based on nothing more than their attitude – unless you're already a Red Seal Chef, of course, which he'd "hire on the spot."