Culinary grad from Cambridge Bay makes hometown proud

Tasha Tologanak is hoping to bring her culinary skills back home to the North after graduating from the culinary arts program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton.

Tasha Tologanak recently graduated from culinary arts at Alberta's NAIT, hopes to bring skills home

Tasha Tologank, 24, from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is a recent graduate of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology's culinary arts program. (Submitted by Tasha Tologanak)

A woman from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is making her community proud after graduating from culinary school.

Tasha Tologanak, 24, walked the stage in a blue cap and gown in Edmonton on May 4 and received her diploma from the culinary arts program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

"It was really exciting," she said of the achievement. "My parents actually flew in from Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet to be here so that they could support me because they were really proud of my accomplishment."

Over the two-year program, Tologanak said she learned everything from knife skills to making soups and desserts. She also completed the professional meat cutting and merchandising program, a 15-week course that taught her about preparing meat, poultry and fish.

Tologanak said she was drawn to the southern-based program as she wanted to learn more about life outside the North, and she encourages other northern youth to also pursue their dreams.

"When I did my introduction to each of my instructors, they were really surprised at how far I came just to take this program," she said.

"I really wanted to learn what's outside Cambridge Bay and learn about myself. I've always had a passion for cooking and baking."

Big adjustment

Tasha Tologanak says her parents flew to Edmonton from Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay to watch her graduate. (Tasha Tologanak)

At first, Tologanak said it was a big adjustment moving about 1,785 kilometres south to Edmonton.

"I was kind of lost and it was hard to be away from family."

But over time, she met new people and became more comfortable in the city. She said she was also happy to have her own apartment, as finding housing in the North can be difficult.

Tologanak brought traditional foods and dishes to the classroom like Arctic char, bison, stew and bannock. She was also asked to give a presentation on northern foods.

"I think that's really important," she said. "You have to learn where [food] comes from and how it's produced and consumed."

Cooked on TV

Tologanak recently showed off her culinary skills on TV. On May 2, Tologanak appeared on CTV Edmonton's live morning show, showing viewers how to make steak tartare with a traditional twist — fresh caribou her father brought her from Cambridge Bay.

"I was nervous but my parents encouraged me to go on because it was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said.

"Everyone back home, they've always been a big support, like the whole community, and they were really excited to see me on TV and present something from back home."

Tasha Tologanak says she likes to cook with traditional foods like Arctic char, bison and caribou. (Submitted by Tasha Tologanak. )

Being involved in her community is important for Tologanak.

In March, she received the Outstanding Young Woman's Award from the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council for her volunteer work in Cambridge Bay. That includes organizing drives for winter clothing, Christmas hampers and hygiene items for the women's shelter, as well as gathering donations for families displaced by a fire last July.

"It's just something I feel like I have to do," Tologanak said. "It doesn't take much to make someone in need happy."

As for what's next for Tologanak, at eight months pregnant she's looking forward to being a mother. She also hopes to open a catering business with her father.

"I'm just excited to go back home finally, after two and a half years, and be home and support my community."