Meet the Chef: Blake Burns

Developing new culinary techniques and discovering new ingredients are a family affair for Blake Burns, who's competing for Culinary Apprentice of the Year Award.

Developing new culinary techniques and discovering new ingredients are a family affair for Blake Burns.

Blake is one of the participants from across B.C. who will be putting their skills to the test during the Culinary Apprentice of the Year competition on November 2. He started his early culinary career working in his parents’ Italian deli, making bread and fresh pasta, followed by a fish ‘n’ chips shop during his high school years.

Today, he still loves making fresh pasta at home, and for other dishes, his family has very elevated tastes.

“My four-year-old demands omelettes for breakfast with Gruyère cheese, Tuscany ham, and a side of Castelvetrano olives,” he laughs. 

In fact, food is such a big part of his life that he, along with his colleagues at Cactus Club, were prepping food for his own wedding into the early evening the night before. 

When he’s not in the kitchen as a chef, Blake is exploring what’s on offer locally for produce and ingredients to help grow his experience by trying new things—both ingredients and ways to prepare them. 

“I’m always eagerly anticipating what’s coming into season for local ingredients. You’ll see some of these ingredients in my dishes for the competition,” said Blake. “Every weekend, I go to a farm near my place with my family to get vegetables and eggs. I get really inspired by what’s in season.”

Blake had always wanted to participate in a competition but hadn’t had the chance to compete in one outside of Cactus Club in a number of years. When the Culinary Apprentice of the Year competition came up, he realized that he wanted to push himself out of his comfort zone and test his skills against people he doesn’t work with.  

“I’m very passionate about food and enjoy all aspects of it, and I’m hungry to learn more.”

Besides choosing the best seasonal ingredients for his dishes at the upcoming competition, Blake’s been preparing by studying and getting support from fellow colleagues and his family: going through his many cookbooks, conceptualizing dishes, looking at a range of techniques being used by other chefs, and then experimenting. 

Blake expects that the competition will give him an opportunity to grow and challenge himself and learn new things that will help him continue to grow in his role at Cactus Club in the coming years.

“Cactus Club is a great company to work for, and we’re growing so much that there’s always new opportunities and new ways to push myself.” 


The Culinary Apprentice of the Year is sponsored by Chefs’ Table Society of BC, Vancouver Community College, and Industry Training Authority, along with BC Chefs Association, North Vancouver Island Chefs Association, Okanagan Chefs Association, and Victoria Chefs Association. Additional partners include Russell Hendrix, Intercity Packers, Gindara Sablefish, Cacao Barry, Cactus Club Cafe, Cascadia Tableware, Icon Fine Wines & Spirits, Chef & Co, and House of Knives.

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