Chef Varin Keokitvon Knows His Way Up and Down a Mountain

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To his students at the Seattle Culinary Academy, he is “Chef V.” The V stands for Varin, his first name. But the letter V could just as easily stand for Victory, a victory he engineered himself when his dream of becoming a professional snowboarder hit a snowbank after sustaining an injury on the slopes. Instead of flying down a mountain for a living, he decided to become a chef, methodically climbing the culinary mountain replete with long hours of attending class, studying, practicing, and working to remain in school. In 2009, one of his chef instructors suggested he enter Chaîne’s Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs Competition (JCR). “Let me just try it and see. So I did it and somehow I won the local version then the regional version and nationals was in Scottsdale. And I think I was pretty much the underdog,” Maître Rôtisseur Chef Varin Keokitvon, chef instructor at the Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central College, said to Chaîne during an April 30, 2024 telephone interview.

One of his competitors at the 2009 JCR had recently returned from participating in the Culinary Olympics in Germany so Varin had reason to be considered an underdog. But he approached the competition with confidence in his preparation and experience. Coached by Chef John Fischer, CEC, CCE, AAC, HGT, WCMC, who at the time was a chef instructor at Renton Technical College, Chef Varin and Chef John created their formula for success.

Already well known for his expertise in pastry, which is one-third of the cooking competition, Varin worked on not losing any points in the kitchen score in which points are deducted for being messy, not being organized, and/or violating Department of Health guidelines for food safety.

Chef Fisher coached him to hold his own against the other competitors in cooking the first and second courses but then outright win the dessert course because of his pastry ability. Most young chefs struggle with pastry because they are not trained extensively in that area, Varin explained. Chef Fisher also helped Varin understand what the judges would be looking for as they evaluated him. His underdog status did not last long as the competition commenced. Reflecting on his success, Varin said, “I think it was partly from my work ethic and partly from coaching.” No doubt his work ethic came from his upbringing in a loving family who instilled that value in him at a young age.

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