Ilynna Lam found the perfect recipe for success to become the Shaw Conference Centre’s Pastry Sous Chef
Born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, Pastry Sous Chef Ilynna Lam loved to attend cooking classes and draw in restaurants as a child. Her creativity and love for decorating eventually led her to the other side of our kitchen, crafting mouth-watering desserts for thousands of guests. Celebrating her seventh year with the Shaw Conference Centre this fall, Ilynna’s found the recipe to success as our Pastry Sous Chef.
Ilynna moved to Edmonton to attend university and graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science Chemistry major and Nutrition and Food minor. After spending time in a chemistry lab, she decided to pursue a hands-on baking career and attended Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s (NAIT) baking program. School became an entirely different learning experience and she found her passion for baking was the missing ingredient in her career.
Her instructor at the time, Clayton Folkers, also worked at the Shaw Conference Centre and asked Ilynna to help with the busy Christmas season. While she was offered a job, she decided to pursue an opportunity in England at a summer lodge and then returned home to join the Shaw Conference Centre team.
“Edmonton’s culinary scene provides so many opportunities for young chefs, and the Shaw Conference Centre is a leader in developing the industry’s talent. Chefs come to learn the craft which provides mentorship, professional development, and the freedom to create.”
The Shaw Conference Centre was a natural fit that took Ilynna from Chef Commis to Demi Chef, Chef de Partie, Senior Chef de Partie and to her current role as Pastry Sous Chef. In her new role, Ilynna mixes creativity into every recipe. The freedom to experiment allows the team to excel as they blend different skills and strengths.
As a former student who became a leader in the kitchen, she looks for opportunities to mentor the up-and-coming chefs, developing their talent and passion. “We always make time to help each other. It’s the people you work with who make the experience,” she says. Working under Executive Chef Serge Belair and Executive Pastry Chef Jason Wang has given Ilynna the encouragement to try new things and join a team where everyone brings something different to the kitchen – it’s a colourful plate of skills and teamwork.
The Shaw Conference Centre kitchen helped Ilynna develop leadership and organizational skills. Although serving thousand of guests in an evening is a big order, for Ilynna it isn’t work – it’s a passion. What sets the Shaw Conference Centre kitchen apart is the volume of resources chefs have access to. It’s spacious and encouraging, with a stewarding team to assist chefs and create one of Canada’s best dining experiences.
“You see a wide spectrum done exceptionally well and find where you want to be. This is a great team of leaders that teach the foundations.”
With some of the world’s finest chefs in our kitchen, Ilynna feels lucky to have had mentors like former chefs Clayton Folkers and James Holhouse throughout her career. Along with current Executive Chef Serge Belair and Executive Pastry Chef Jason Wang, they saw her eagerness and drive to learn. Her mentors spent time teaching Ilynna the finer details in pastry making and she now applies these lessons to her team.
Everything around Ilynna becomes inspiration for the next sweet creation, whether it’s colours, textures or shapes. As a lover of new challenges, she believes learning environments like the kitchen help her to excel and bring new skills to the table. While Ilynna loves to create the sweet treats we enjoy, she’s more of a savoury person herself, but she’s known to indulge in the occasional classic like a banana cream pie!
“It’s exciting to come to work and try new flavours and combos and go through an artistic process.”
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