Ever since he was a teenager, Rylan McCallion has loved to cook. Now, at just 25, he has turned that passion into a career as executive chef at one of Bulkley Valley’s newest and busiest restaurants.
Rylan began his kitchen career at 15 as a part-time dishwasher. At 17, he and a friend took over a small Italian restaurant in the Bulkley Valley area, and for the next three years he made “heaps of mistakes” but also “learned tons.” At 20, he left the kitchen for nearly two years to do other things. Eventually, he decided he needed to round out his practical experience, so in 2002 he enrolled in the 12-month culinary arts program at Nanaimo’s Malaspina College. After a stint working at Calgary chef Michael Noble’s Catch Restaurant, he returned to his boyhood home and took on the executive chef position at 3 Bridges Restaurant.
Despite the title and the responsibility of supervising a staff that includes four full-time cooks as well as several part-time personnel, Rylan still considers himself a working chef who spends eight to 10 hours on the line every day. The biggest reward, he says, is the satisfaction of “providing people with beautiful food and giving them an experience that might not be something they have every day.” His biggest challenge is time management, both on and off the job. Being a chef can seem to take over your life, he says. “It’s more a lifestyle, I think, than just a profession.”
Rylan thinks somebody interested in this line of work should “start out at a place where you can learn…dishwashing or prepping or whatever, and just keep your eyes open, look around and learn.” After that, “if a person is still interested, I really highly recommend taking a culinary program to get a base knowledge of some of the things you really need to excel at.”