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Chef Noan always wanted to cook, says follow your passion

A chef dishing up food into plates.

Noan Agtarap is a Chef with over 11 years of experience. For Noan, becoming a chef was about following her passions: “I was just super passionate about food.” Today, Noan works for Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, and some of her duties include preparing meals for sports teams and special events. 

What influenced you to choose your career?

Although her career began in 2010, Noan first started cooking at an early age, inspired to learn the trade from close relatives, “Even when I was young, I was always with my mom and my grandma in the kitchen. I was always curious about what they were cooking and then I started cooking for myself, and my family, and I was like 14.”  Thankfully, her passion and hard work paid off, “I had not been in the industry beforehand, I didn’t know what I was getting into, but after I graduated I got a job, and it solidified it for me. It was kind of a sigh of relief.” 

How does a Chef get started?

Noan’s journey as a professional cook began at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario. A two-year cooking program gave her the necessary skill and background to excel as a chef in the kitchen. However, she explains that her path is not the only option available to future chefs, “A lot of the great chefs that I know, they’ve just started working in the kitchen as a dishwasher when they’re young and you know, work their way out from there. I think both ways are great. Either way will get you in the kitchen.”

What soft skills do you think are helpful to have as a chef?

In a team of twenty chefs, Noan is the only girl. “I’ve needed to adapt to the way men think.” This is not an uncommon scenario for her, “Most kitchens that I worked at I’ve been the only girl.” Noan believes that as a chef certain qualities are needed, qualities that will translate as skills in any other field of choice. First is building a strong sense of self which helps when first adjusting to life in the intense and fast-paced kitchen.

“In the kitchen a lot of times, you will get yelled at, especially if you’re new and trying to get your footing in the kitchen, so it is a lot of hard work.”

Another is tenacity, being passionate and eager to learn is a necessary quality when working long hours in the kitchen. “You’re going to get tested, especially the first couple of months of starting to work. There are long hours. If you don’t want to do long hours in the kitchen I would suggest another career path. There are times when I have worked 14 to 16 hours during the day.”

What you have learned from your work experience?

Our first lesson at our jobs often teaches us the necessary tools we need for longevity in our chosen career. This is no different for Noan… her first lesson in the kitchen is also her biggest, “Don’t walk into a kitchen thinking that you know it all, you know, even if you have 10 years of experience, always walk into a kitchen like you’re brand new…a clean slate, because that way you’ll absorb more knowledge.” 

How has your lived experience shaped the work you do?

As a woman of colour in the cooking industry Noan is a rarity and she knows it. However, that background is the source of her passion for food. “Filipino people we love food, we always celebrate around food. My mom and actually, my whole family we always gathered around food… if we wanted to celebrate something we ate, if we were mourning something we ate. And that affected what I do now, and why I’m in the work that I do.”

Do you have any words for aspiring chefs who may be reading this?

“If you want to be a chef you can’t be afraid of hard work. Long hours like I said…life advice in general, not necessarily if you want to be a chef: I think you need to find something that you’re passionate about and that will give you fire and it will drive you to want better, right in anything that you do.”

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