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Central Park rink canteen a teaching kitchen for culinary arts

'The intent is to prepare them to get jobs,' says Chef Skylar Fulmer who mentors the interns through the six-week, paid program
Chef Skylar Fulmer runs the six-week culinary internship at the Central Park Arena canteen where they teach interns between 15 and 29 years old about kitchen culture, cooking, flavours, safety, recipe development, and workplace skills.

A Collingwood arena canteen is turning the typical rink fare on its ear, opting out of microwave hotdogs and Icees, and serving scratch meals prepared under the watchful eye of a teaching chef. 

A new internship program supported by Elephant Thoughts, the Environment Network and government grants, is preparing older youth and young adults for the workplace through instruction in the culinary arts, and the Central Park Arena canteen is the classroom. 

Chef Skylar Fulmer is leading the group of interns through the basics of flavours, cooking skills, food service, and general workplace skills. 

“I think cooking is a fundamental skill, next to reading and writing,” said Fulmer. “People need to learn how to cook, and there’s a huge disconnect between preparing food and eating food. A lot of people don’t know what goes into their food or even how to prepare it. It’s kind of like a mystery, I think, to some people.” 

Fulmer said they have always loved learning and after training as a chef, leadership came naturally. 

“My passion for teaching youth, especially, led me here through contacts and getting involved in the community,” said Fulmer.  

The internships began with an online class taught by Fulmer to Saugeen First Nation young adults and have continued with another two cohorts for the six-week, paid program offered under the Collingwood Youth Centre name.

Now, Fulmer uses the canteen and kitchen at Central Park Arena for the practical part of the internship, where they and the class will serve customers, cater meals, and also prepare the marketplace canned goods like soups, salsas, and other food items. 

“The intent is to prepare them to get jobs,” said Fulmer. “Through the internship, they can explore their interest in the culinary fields, but next to culinary skills, we teach them kitchen culture, they get safe food handlers course, Smart Serve, and a managing emotions component …. They get all these courses that prepare them to be better in the workforce.” 

Fulmer said growing up in a low-income household contributed to their own pursuit of culinary arts. 

“It was a way for me to eat and work,” they said. “I started in high school and I would spend half my lunch hour working in the cafeteria so that I could get food for my time … So that kind of inspired me to think … who else isn’t eating lunch?” 

Interns in the program will learn knife safety, kitchen culture, flavour profiles, setting up a kitchen, food service, and customer service skills. 

“We get into sauces, soups and that kind of thing, how to cook eggs and meat, and then we kind of let them explore themselves and their interests,” said Fulmer. 

Interns are encouraged to bring recipes significant to their families and their ancestry. 

“Last fall, one of our interns made a Welsh lamb stew, and another one made Jamaican corn porridge … it was so good, and I’ve never even heard of that,” said Fulmer. 

The class will also make and can sauces, soups, and salsa, which gets sold at the canteen marketplace. 

“It’s becoming a little bit of a hub, and that’s how I see it going forward, not just a canteen but a marketplace,” said Fulmer. 

Currently, the canteen is open Tues., Thurs., and Fri. from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to about 5 p.m. 

The post-high school internship is for anyone aged 15 to 29-years old. It’s a paid position for six weeks and about 30 hours a week. Elephant Thoughts covers the fees for certification like safe food handling. 

“We’re looking for people who are interested in learning, who would like to gain transferable skills, people who are looking for support in life and finding a job

The next intake begins in April and there’s one underway right now. Registration for the April internship is open at

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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