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Cooking for royalty a 'surreal' experience, says local student

When Tyson Gee prepares a meal, he likes to make sure every dish he executes is fit for a king.

When Tyson Gee prepares a meal, he likes to make sure every dish he executes is fit for a king.

So when the Coquitlam cook was invited to Ottawa to help prepare a meal for Prince William and Catherine, the 23-year-old Centennial secondary alum jumped at the opportunity.

He and a group of culinary students from Vancouver Community College put together more than a dozen hors d'oeuvres for the couple at an event kicking off the royals' cross-country tour of Canada.

"It was such a surreal experience," Gee said. "There is nothing I could possibly compare it to."

The group worked under the guidance of Rideau Hall executive chef Louis Charest. Food items were selected from across the country representing Canada's range of culinary experiences, Gee said.

Arctic char and sea urchin were brought in from the Yukon, while Alberta contributed yak to the menu. Spruce tip smoked oysters from Newfoundland were also prepared for the royal couple along with quail eggs and Salt Spring Island goat cheese. Spot prawns from British Columbia were also incorporated into the meal.

"The menu was a very Canadian themed menu," Gee said. "The items were selected because chef [Charest] thought it was a good representation of Canada, especially for the provinces which the royal couple were not visiting. If they can't visit the west coast we'll bring it to them."

Since he left for Ottawa last Tuesday Gee has barely had time to process the experience. Prep work began shortly after their plane touched the ground and continued right up until the event began.

On Friday the crew of culinary students returned home.

"It all went by so fast," he said. "I haven't had time to really let the whole experience sink in yet."

Gee was exposed to several different career paths, but fell in love with cooking a few years ago. Since then he has devoted much of his time to his craft, which he said is his way of expressing himself.

Last week's event in Ottawa is not the first time Gee was teamed up with fellow VCC culinary arts students Jasper Cruickshank and Arielle Schwab in preparing a meal. The crew, led by VCC culinary arts department head John-Carlo Felicella, recently took second place at a cooking competition in Dublin, Ireland.