Alum Corner with Matthew Cooke

Matthew Cooke attended Capilano University to study Human Kinetics. However, after realizing he wasn’t ready for further studies, he worked at Earls Restaurant and volunteered with the Project Chef’s program, which sparked his interest in culinary arts. Matthew then attended culinary school and plans to complete the Chef Education program at UBC to become a culinary educator. He values the skills learned at VWS, such as questioning, self-teaching, adaptability, and open-mindedness, which have influenced his career choices. Matthew also cherishes memories of fall hiking trips and playing on the soccer team at VWS.

VWS: Tell me about your work and education after graduating from the VWS.

MC: After graduating, I attended Capilano University with the intent to get a degree in Human Kinetics. I also decided to get a job at Earls Restaurant; I wanted to make some money, and I enjoyed cooking, so it was a good fit. As my time at school progressed, I stumbled through my first two terms, only enjoying half of my courses. I did well in the classes I enjoyed and not so well in the others. In retrospect, I believe that I was not ready to be back in school; I wasn’t mature enough, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, my motivation was not strong enough, and it felt like I was only there because it’s what you’re supposed to do after graduating from high school. I finished my first year and chose not to continue my studies. Instead, I worked my way up the rankings at Earls. I worked at Earls for the next three years and learned a lot. My time came to leave the restaurant after I couldn’t learn a whole lot more or move up in the rankings. It was time for something new. I spent the summer contemplating what I wanted to do next.

I was in the space of the great unknown, the area that so many young adults enter after graduating from high school or finishing their post-secondary education. For me, it was a place of frustration. Towards the end of the summer, I was introduced to Project Chef’s program. I spent the fall volunteering full time with this great program. The program spends time at Vancouver elementary schools teaching children about healthy food: where it comes from, what it tastes like, how to prepare it and how to enjoy sharing it around a table. As I enjoyed my time in this program, I was told to apply for culinary school. The more I heard about the experiences my coworkers had with this culinary school, the easier it made my decision to apply. Two months later, I found myself at Northwest Culinary Academy. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at culinary school; it gave me an excellent base in cooking skills. After finishing culinary school, I was back in limbo: I had no idea what I wanted to do. There were many things I knew I didn’t want to do (for example, work in the restaurant industry). I pondered the idea of going back to university, but I was not too fond of the thought of five more years of school and the amount of money required to do that. Eventually, I came across the Chef Education program, which perfectly fit what I wanted to do. As it stands right now, I am finishing the requirements necessary to enter the program, and I hope to complete it within the next two or three years.

VWS: What kind of work/study are you involved in now?

MC: I plan to finish getting my Red Seal certification (Cook Certification) to enter a program at UBC called Chef Education. I hope to have my Bachelors in Education with Chef Education specialty and begin teaching in the years to come. I attend classes at the Vancouver Pastry Training Center to round out my culinary knowledge. Who would say no to learn how to make sourdough bread, croissants, chocolates, etc.?

VWS: What advice would you give to graduate students?

MC: If you want to go to university, research your options thoroughly and as early as possible (especially grants, loans, scholarships, etc.). If I had known I would be going into culinary, I could have had all of my tuition paid for with a surplus. Always have a backup plan. If you are in the space of the “great unknown,” spend as much time as you can doing the things you enjoy. It will open up many different paths, which will lead you to find your career or the next step in that direction. Ask the people around you for help and advice. If you are not keen on what universities offer or how they are structured, many alternative post-secondary education options are available. (YIP, Evergreen College, Quest, BCIT, apprenticeship, etc..: do your research)

VWS: What are your fondest memories of your time at the VWS?

MC: The fall hiking trips were phenomenal; spending time in the wilderness teaches you a lot about yourself, and it allows you to appreciate what a beautiful place we live in. I also enjoyed playing on the soccer team, especially the trips to the Provincial tournaments.

VWS: How did Waldorf education affect your life and career choice?

MC: It taught me to question anything and everything, the ability to teach myself, to adapt quickly to different circumstances, to have confidence in what I believe even if it means I stand alone, and to have an open mind.

Editor’s Note: Matthew has completed a teaching degree and is currently teaching cooking for the Vancouver School Board.

Interview by Michelle Gibson, for Development April 2010 

Matthew Cooke
Matthew CookeClass of 2006

The Vancouver Waldorf School provides an experiential, age-appropriate approach to education based on the insights of Rudolf Steiner that inspires students to love learning, to be creative, open-minded, and compassionate. With a curriculum that integrates all academics with the arts and social learning, Waldorf Education develops not only the left and right hemispheres of the brain but the whole human being. A child’s social, emotional, physical and intellectual development is considered equally, supporting a conscious unfolding of the individuality within each student. Waldorf graduates possess capacities for empathy and clear, creative and independent thinking that enables them to carry out a chosen course of action with moral courage and social responsibility.