They say if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. George Brown College grad Chef Aakash Dhall withstood the heat and stayed cool to outcook the competition on season three of Food Network Canada’s Fire Masters.
The proud Chef School grad bested 29 grill masters from across Canada and the United States with his open-flame cooking techniques, wowing the judges with his Italian and Mediterranean-inspired creations and his take on North American brunch in the final round. His championship performance earned him a $10,000 prize.
“That fire and that station were really hot, the entire cooking arena was hot,” he said. “It was a great experience. You learn and adapt. If you’re focusing on what’s important at the moment and not getting carried away by the pressure, that really helps. So does experience.”
Dhall (pictured above, left, with George Brown College President Dr. Gervan Fearon) certainly has the experience, and he has speed. Since completing chef training in his native New Delhi and graduating from George Brown's Culinary Management program in 2015, Dhall continues to rise through the restaurant ranks thanks to his persistence, passion and curiosity. He’s currently the research and development chef for 1 Hotel Toronto.
Dhall inspires new scholarship for international students
Leaders from George Brown College and 1 Hotel Toronto gathered on May 16 to celebrate Dhall’s achievement, including George Brown College President Dr. Gervan Fearon; Dr. Cindy Gouveia, President, George Brown College Foundation and Vice-President, Advancement, George Brown College; as well as other college leaders and Dhall’s 1 Hotel colleagues.
Scotiabank’s Senior Vice-President, Client Solutions & Direct Investing and George Brown College Foundation Board of Directors member Erin Griffiths announced the new $1,000 Chef Aakash Dhall Leadership in Culinary Arts Award, an entrance scholarship for international students studying culinary arts at George Brown.
“It's wonderful to see what our graduates are doing in the community and on a national stage," Griffiths said. "We are so pleased to create this new scholarship in honour of Aakash."
'I love George Brown'
Dhall said he knew his way around a kitchen when he arrived at George Brown but needed to get used to the language and culture in Canada. He said the supportive, inclusive and welcoming environment at George Brown contributed to his success.
“I love George Brown,” he said. “As I kept on learning, I thought, wow, these are people who want to contribute towards my growth. They're willing to accept me the way I am. There was just so much positivity around me.”
Dhall gave a special shout-out to former professors Abigail Picado, Anne Yarymowich, Riley Bennet and now-retired Rodney Donne.
Advice for students and recent grads
Patience plays a big role in success, Dhall said. When he came to Canada, he realized he had to focus on different areas of cooking based on North American culinary culture and dedicated his time to learning about meat. Dhall interned with butchers and at fish markets, picking up new skills. He said it's important to know when to move on to the next challenge.
“I climbed up the ladder. I started as an intern, junior cook, commis chef, demi-chef de partie, and chef de partie, and I paid my dues learning fish butchery for a year. I was constantly challenged to perform,” he said.
“If you’re passionate, you're constantly focused on challenging yourself because you have to be better.”
Dhall timed himself while cooking in preparation for appearing in a televised culinary competition. Now that he has one cooking championship under his belt, he continues to prepare for the possibility of appearing in another Food Network show, such as Top Chef.
“I want to leave a mark somehow,” he said, “I've been inspired, and I want to inspire someone.”