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Women of the Wild West

SAIT’s contribution to Calgary’s culinary community was on display big time in the Big Apple last April.

The James Beard Foundation, a New York-based culinary institute, invited six Calgary-based female chefs to create a dinner for 74 guests, including food critics, chefs and the media. Five of the six chefs invited to cook at the event, dubbed “Women of the Wild West,” studied at SAIT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism. The meal they prepared was made with grains, meat and produce brought in from Western Canada. 

“It’s a big deal to be invited to cook a meal in the Beard House,” said Wanda Ly (PCK ’99). “It’s like the Academy Awards of cooking. The other chefs who have cooked there before us are people I’ve learned from. I have their cookbooks on my shelf at home.”

Ly is the executive sous chef at WinSport Canada. Other SAIT trained chefs on the team were Alison MacNeil (PCK ’01) of the Black Pig Bistro, CHARCUT Roast House’s Connie DeSousa (PCK ’00), Karine Moulin (PCK ’97) of the Hotel Arts Group, and Liana Robberecht (formerly of the Calgary Petroleum Club, she will be the new executive chef at WinSport starting June 8) who attended NAIT and SAIT. The sixth chef was Nicole Gomes, owner of Nicole Gourmet.

Each chef prepared an hors d’oeuvre, ranging from Gouda pierogi with chives to bison tartare. The six-course dinner included dishes made with beef, bison, walleye and smoked trout. 

Ly says being on a team representing Calgary at such a prestigious institution is the pinnacle of her career, and she credits her SAIT education for getting her there. “SAIT is my foundation for cooking. They taught me the fundamentals — how to braise something, how to roast a chicken. In order to become a successful chef and a mentor to others, you need to learn these basic things.” 

The Dean of SAIT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, Tom Bornhorst, says having his school so well represented in New York is a proud moment. “The Beard Foundation recognizes remarkable talent – the best in the industry,” says Bornhorst.