Q&A with chef Jeremy Luypen: “We’re a family”

Interview by Gregory Furgala

In February, the Culinary Federation elected chef Jeremy Luypen as its new western regional vice president. Based in Kelowna, B.C., Luypen has built a career working in the Okanagan Valley, where he’s currently the executive winery chef at Summerhill Winery and an instructor in Okanagan College’s culinary arts program, his alma mater. Á La Minute chatted with him about his career, giving back to the community and being the newest CF leader.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

À La Minute: Tell me about your professional background.

Jeremy Luypen: In my grade seven yearbook, it says, “when I grow up, I want to be a chef.” It wasn’t a path I set on, though. I took psychology and philosophy and focused on conflict management, but it just wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I was playing basketball at university here in Kelowna, and I felt like I might as well give it a shot and went to culinary school. I fell in love with it. I had a great instructor who set me on a really good path and helped me get my first job, and it kept growing and growing from there. After I got my Red Seal, I headed out to Calgary for my first executive chef job and took a steakhouse there through a rebranding process. That was great, but I missed the Okanagan Valley, so I decided to come back and spent some time in the Hotel Eldorado, Terrafina Restaurant and Predator Ridge Resort, and later found myself at Summerhill Winery.

ÀLM: When did you first join the Culinary Federation

JL: I joined as a young apprentice back in the day, but kind of fell out of touch with it when I moved to Calgary. When I got back, I was talking to a buddy, and he said, “If you’re going to live in the community you might as well give back to that community.” He wasn’t even in the Culinary Federation — he had a different profession, but we had started talking about making an impact in our communities. He joined the board for another association, and I joined the Culinary Federation.

ÀLM: How has it shaped your career?

JL: Career-wise, it has been really good. I’ve had the opportunity to travel. I’ve met some amazing chefs along the way. For us, the Valley has an amazing bond of chefs. The Valley is driven off of tourism, and we all get together to promote it because it’s an amazing place to be. It’s a lot of fun, and we have great restaurants, great wineries and some great microbreweries. We’re a family.

ÀLM: Why did you decide to take on a leadership role?

JL: Part of it was [western regional vice president] Anthony McCarthy asking me if it was something I’d be interested in. I’ve been quite vocal through the whole rebranding process, and I like to think I represent the generation of chefs that’s coming up. I want to give them a voice and give the Federation a look from a different point of view. My background isn’t the same as the founders and current board members. I didn’t get into this when I was 14, 15, 16, like most chefs did. I didn’t spend a tonne of time in large hotels. I’ve always been working in restaurants and have a different view from the front lines.

ÀLM: What’s your plan for the Federation going forward?

JL: I think it’s just to help move the Federation forward. If we’re going to go through this rebranding process, let’s have some fun while we’re doing it and give the Federation a different point of view.

ÀLM: The conference in Niagara’s coming up — what’re you looking forward to there?

JL: I think there’s a fun educational component. And I live in wine country, so it’ll be fun to visit Ontario’s wine region and see what they’re doing there and what they’re like. I’ve had Ontario wines before, but it’ll be fun to visit those places. With the Federation, it’ll be interesting to talk about the rebranding and see where we’re going with this.

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