Niagara College’s Team Canada turns up the heat for ultimate challenge: Culinary Olympics

After three years of intense training, the hopes of a nation and eyes of the world are on a team of recent graduates from Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute.

As the reigning Junior Culinary Team Canada, they will be competing against the world’s best at the Culinary Olympics – known formally as the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (IKA) Culinary Olympics – in Erfrurt, Germany October 21-26, 2016.

Team manager Craig Youdale, dean of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute, said the team has been trained for excellence and he is confident in their abilities.

“Just like athletes who train for years to compete in the Olympic Games, our Culinary Olympians take great pride in wearing the flag on their uniforms and take their commitment to representing their country very seriously,” said Youdale. “They have dedicated tens of thousands of hours in the kitchen to train over the last three years, on top of their regular school and work hours, and they have what it takes to win.”

Team captain Ben Lillico said the team is focused, determined and very strong as they head into the final weeks before the Culinary Olympics.

“Words cannot describe how hard our team has worked to get to where we are today. We would not be where we are today without the blood, sweat and tears put in by each and every team member,” said Lillico, a graduate of the College’s Culinary Management, and Bachelor of Applied Business and Hospitality programs (2014). “We are extremely proud of how we have progressed and the opportunities that have arisen on our journey thus far.”

Before they depart for Germany, the team will prepare competition meals at CFWI dinner events on September 19 and September 24. The Niagara College community will cheer them on at an official send-off event on October 7 (11 a.m., NOTL Campus) before they depart on their road to gold.

About Junior Culinary Team Canada

In October 2013, a team of culinary students and recent graduates from the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute won the title of Junior Culinary Team Canada in a victory over other culinary teams at The Canadian Culinary Federation of Chefs and Cooks (CFCC) Junior Culinary Team Selection Competition. The distinction came with the right to represent Canada at international culinary competitions for three years, including the World Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany in October 2016.

The team has already savoured success. In November 2014, Junior Culinary Team Canada won a gold and silver medal and ranked fifth overall at the Expogast Villeroy and Boch Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg. In August 2015, the team captured a gold and silver medal and the overall championship title at the American Culinary Classic in Orlando, Florida.

Junior Culinary Team Canada members include captain Ben Lillico (resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake, hometown: Waterloo) , Carly Bergshoeff (resident of St. Catharines, hometown: Oshawa), Daniella Germond (St. Catharines), David Ross (resident of NOTL, hometown: Peterborough), Jeremy Gilligan (St. Catharines), Megan Proper (Burford), Robbie Aggarwal (Niagara Falls), Scott McInerney (St. Catharines resident; hometown: Peterborough), and Trevor Littlejohn (resident of Niagara Falls; hometown: Paisley). The team’s coaches include CFWI chef professors Avi Hollo and Olaf Mertens; with chefs Scott Baechler, Dan LeBlanc, Catherine O’Donnell and Osvaldo Avila providing mentorship for the team.

Cheer on Team Canada!

Send text and video messages of encouragement to Junior Culinary Team Canada via social media using the hashtag #NCtasteforgold. Follow the team on twitter at @NCjrculinaryteam and visit
Watch video

Watch video promo of Junior Culinary Team Canada here:

About the Canadian Food and Wine Institute

The Canadian Food and Wine Institute, located on Niagara College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, is the College’s centre for food wine and beer education. It is home to Benchmark, the College’s teaching restaurant, as well as the Teaching Winery and Teaching Brewery – the first of their kind in Canada. In 2017, it will also be home to Canada’s first teaching distillery.

About Niagara College

Niagara College offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs at campuses in Welland, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Niagara Falls; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit

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Team Canada interviews

Members of Junior Culinary Team Canada will be available for media interviews on Thursday, September 22 immediately following a team photo (weather permitting) at 3 p.m. at the NC Teaching Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, 135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake).
Please contact to arrange interviews in advance
Media contacts

Susan McConnell
Media Relations Advisor
President’s Office
Niagara College
905.641.2252 x 4330
Julie Greco
Communications Specialist
Niagara College
Office: 905.735.2211 ext. 7368
Cell: 905.328.2532