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Tsawwassen-raised chef is only Canadian at world’s leading gastronomic festival

Kevin Cherkas will showcase his culinary skills at Gastronomika 2019
Kevin Cherkas is the only Canadian chef participating in Gastronomika 2019 in Spain.

Acclaimed Tsawwassen-raised chef Kevin Cherkas will soon showcase his culinary skills at the world’s leading gastronomic festival in San Sebastian, Spain.

Cherkas, the head chef at Cuca Restaurant in Bali, Indonesia, is the lone Canadian representative at Gastronomika 2019, which attracts renowned chefs, culinary experts and industry professionals.

Back in 2011, Madrid Fusión, another prestigious culinary event, invited him as a presenter where he made such a huge impression that he was hand-picked again to participate in 2016, this time representing his own restaurant, Cuca, which launched in 2013.

“I am honoured to be presenting at Gastronomika 2019 and proud to be the only Canadian chef,” Cherkas said. “We aim to present San Sebastian’s audience with something that will blow their mind.”

The South Delta Secondary grad was awarded his culinary arts degree at Vancouver Community College and took his first professional steps at the Metropolitan Hotel in Vancouver.

During his three-year apprenticeship, he won several prestigious culinary awards, including three gold medals at the British Columbia Chefs Association Hot Culinary Competition in 2000 and a fifth-place finish with Team Canada at the famed Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest in 2001 in France.

A classically French-trained chef, over the years he has embraced molecular gastronomy, with extensive turns at some of the world’s best restaurants contributing to this progressive gastronomic journey and continual appetite to think outside the box. 

“I never thought it unusual to travel across the world learning to cook,” he said.

In 2001 he left Vancouver for New York City to work under celebrity chef Daniel Boulud and in 2003 moved to the birthplace of molecular gastronomy, Spain, honing his skills at some of the country’s most revered restaurants. This led to his first taste of Asia, helming several multiple-award-winning, fine dining restaurants.

At Cuca, he hand picks the finest, freshest local ingredients that Indonesia produces, finds out how these are traditionally used to understand their potential, and then takes them to new levels by applying techniques acquired through his culinary journey.

His decision to leave Canada in a quest to learn about new foods and techniques is additionally touched on, although he acknowledges Canada gave him profound grounding to appreciate what he now unearths in Indonesia.

“Cooking through some of the world’s best kitchens only took me so far,” he recalls. “Growing up in Canada, you are surrounded by nature, eating as locally-sourced, natural, fresh and as seasonal as possible and it was that foundation and the drive to give a new life to those local market products that made me the chef I am today.”