International award-winning red seal chef receives Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award
Peter Keith had a career-defining moment on the world stage as a member of Team Alberta at the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany, in 2012. He had been awake for nearly 48 hours to help Team Canada complete their entry the previous day, and his training and endurance was about to be put to the test.
Luckily, Keith (Cook ’11) was ready to overcome any obstacles that came his way. In the year leading up to the competition, he spent many hours at NAIT undergoing extensive preparation.
“We started our practices at midnight because, at the competition, you have to serve your food first thing in the morning,” he explains. “A lot of the finishing touches need to be done at the last minute when everything is still fresh.”
His grit and hard work paid off: Keith brought home the gold medal in the cold dish competition as well as reinforced his own personal philosophy in the process. “When I started cooking competitively, it was about reaching my own personal goal and performing at that elite level.”
Finding his passion
Since then, Keith – a certified journeyperson and Red Seal and Blue Seal chef – has competed at more than 15 cooking events, and he earned another gold medal at the WorldSkills Americas competition at São Paulo, Brazil, just one month after his success in Germany. For these achievements, he received the Skills Alberta Alumni Award in 2013.
Keith’s interest in culinary competitions stems from a TV show that he watched when he was a child, Canada’s Next Great Chef, a cooking competition for young chefs. Coincidentally, the finale was shot in a NAIT kitchen. “It was my first glance inside what a professional kitchen looked like,” he says. “The chef whites, the knives and tools – it was all very exciting to me.”
At 14, Keith got his first job washing dishes and within a few months began helping in the kitchen. A high school teacher, Randy Kozak, encouraged Keith to compete in the High School Culinary Challenge (HSCC) and suggested he pursue his apprenticeship at NAIT.
Fast forwarding to today, Keith has embarked on a new culinary venture. Slated to open in fall 2017, Keith and his business partners have created Meuwly’s, a charcuterie company serving locally raised meat products and preserves. Meuwly’s will feature a retail location for customers and a wholesale service for local restaurants. It will also feature cooking classes, events and catering.
Mentoring future culinary champions
Keith hasn’t competed recently, but he is actively involved in the competitive culinary scene. He serves as a volunteer coach for Culinary Team NAIT, mentoring and guiding students at world competitions in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Germany. His most recent mentoring success was Landen Swick, who earned gold at the Culinary Olympics in 2016.
Keith’s commitment to the community also extends to his role as a member of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Edmonton Apprenticeship Committee and his volunteer work with the HSCC. He also serves on the culinary arts technical committee at Skills Alberta.
Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award 2017
For his outstanding achievements as an international award-winning Red Seal chef and his role mentoring NAIT students, Peter Keith was awarded the Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award in May 2017 – an award that recognizes alumni achievement within 12 years of graduation.