When chef, instructor and SAIT alumna Rosalyn Ediger was crafting her proposal for the 2019/20 Cadmus Chair competition she started with a little research.
“I looked up what Cadmus meant, how it started, and found out the Chair is named after the Greek patron of the useful arts,” says Ediger. “I thought, that’s exactly what cooking is — it’s not just about filling the stomach, there’s so much more to it.”
When her Cadmus tenure starts in January 2020, Ediger will begin officially developing a specialized course in culinary diplomacy and food culture within SAIT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism.
Unofficially, the course has been a work in progress for quite some time.
A practiced passion for food and culture meets a new one for teaching
From cooking for celebrities in swanky Swiss ski resorts and interning with Gordon Ramsay to working in Canadian embassies in Bangkok and Beijing and starring in a Chinese cooking show, Ediger has a resume that belies her years.
Having grown up cooking for family and travelling, she realized pretty quickly that food brings people together.
“My mother passed away when I was five, and over the years everyone had to take on a role,” she says. “I ended up cooking for my sisters and my father,” she says. “It was fun — and a way of doing things together.”
Travel was another, and their family trips always included researching specialty foods, going to markets and talking to local people.
And that, she says, is how it all started.
The teaching part evolved from her experience managing a kitchen, and was sparked by an invitation to speak to a class of first-year cooking students following SAIT’s Alumni Awards celebration in 2017.
“There were about 90 students in the room and I talked about my experiences and the risks I took, all kinds of things,” she recalls. “After, they came up and told me ‘You inspire me,’ and I felt the buzz — the power, the energy in the room, it was unbelievable — and they got me.”
Not long after, an instructor position became available and Ediger jumped at the chance to coach the next generation of chefs entering her ever-changing industry.
“Realizing that you’re a role model, knowing your students want to have a similar life experience that you’ve had, I want to give them that opportunity as much as I can,” she says. “I want them to go out and see the world like I have — I have reaped so many rewards from that.”
Creating world peace through food
Ten years ago, the now 34-year-old chef, was growing accustomed to finding herself standing in a room full of diplomats, working alongside Canadian ambassador, David Mulroney, as Chef de Cuisine at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing.
“The course I’m working to develop, it all stems from my background in Beijing,” says Ediger. “At the embassy, I was brought into these big planning meetings about an upcoming diplomatic visit or event, and the ambassador would ask me what I thought about the food. In his mind — and in mine — the food and hospitality were just as important as everything else.”
Culinary diplomacy is an emerging discipline. As Cadmus Chair, Ediger will draw on her extensive experience to create innovative ways of using food to build cultural bridges.
“Food is a tool — a way we can teach people about Canada, a way to share what we have to offer, our values,” she says. “It’s the most powerful tool in the world to create peace.”
Cooking up connections
A few years later and a bit closer to home, Ediger was working at Global Affairs in Ottawa when she met her partner and fellow chef Louis Charest, currently the Executive Chef at Rideau Hall (Government House).
Now the two are tackling this culinary diplomacy project together — Charest in Ottawa, Ediger at SAIT — with the additional goal of building government support.
With that backing, the pair are keen to ultimately see more Canadian chefs working at embassies and consulates around the world — with the United Nations, as part of the Olympics and more.
“The big picture is to have a training program for culinary diplomats at SAIT,” says Ediger. “Students can extend their learning to take courses that have more to do with culinary diplomacy, such as international affairs, food history and everything from geography to etiquette.”
The big picture also includes a focus on Canadian foods.
“A lot of countries have a rich food history – Canada doesn’t really have that,” she says. “We’re a young country, plus, we’re all about multiculturalism.”
“If a cooking student goes to Italy, they’ll learn about regional Italian food,” she says. “For students at SAIT, we don’t mention Canadian food, Indigenous food or Indigenous culture. That needs to change. We have to tell that story.”
With the Cadmus funding and the support of SAIT leadership, her partner and her colleagues, Ediger is excited to get started.
“We think SAIT should be the first school in the world to have a culinary diplomacy program,” she says. “This is the way innovation happens in our industry – through education.”
Fostering passion for trades and teaching
The Cadmus Trades Teaching Chair demonstrates SAIT’s commitment to quality instruction by recognizing and fostering faculty excellence in trades training — it celebrates the very best of SAIT’s trades instructors.
The chair was established in 2005 by John and Cheryl Aldred, under the Cadmus Foundation, and is jointly funded by the Cadmus Fund (administered by the Calgary Foundation) and SAIT. The award includes:
- up to $17,500 to fund the recipient’s activities, promote the trades as a rewarding career option, mentor other instructors and complete project work that will enhance program quality
- up to $2,500 for items such as tools, equipment and personal computers.
The award also enables the instructor to take a four-month sabbatical. In combination, the time and financial means allows the chair to build expertise, ultimately increasing SAIT’s knowledge of current industry standards and practices, and enhancing the world-class education for which SAIT is known.
Learn more about the legacy of the Cadmus Trades Teaching Chair in SAIT’s LINK magazine.