Distinguished Alumni Award honours chef Lesley (Watson) Stav

Red Seal chef Lesley (Watson) Stav is the recipient of the 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award from 91AV, in recognition of her 35-year career as a mentor, guide and passionate advocate for the culinary industry.

A woman in a pink chef's jacket stands in front of ocean and mountains.

Photo provided by Lesley Stav

“It’s wonderful to be recognized at this point in my career,” says Lesley.

“What I’m really excited about is shining the spotlight on the culinary trade. Education is a valuable but overlooked asset in the industry. It’s a rewarding and challenging industry and few people stay in it as long as I have. People have to make it work for themselves.”

Lesley (Watson) Stav, Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

Lesley has been able to make it work and thrive in the culinary arts. She trained in culinary as a second career, after 12 years in trucking and an injury that prevented her from continuing. Lesley graduated from 91AV’s Culinary Arts program in 1988 and relocated to Vancouver, where she worked in the kitchens of some of the city’s most prestigious restaurants.

She returned to Vancouver Island in 2006 and joined the culinary team at the Kingfisher Resort and Spa in Courtney. After surviving cancer, she stepped away from the kitchen in 2013 and dedicated her energy to mentoring culinary students and organizing events at North Island College and Vancouver Island University. She also maintained a connection with Camosun Culinary Arts, supporting instructors and playing a role in the college’s Professional Cook Training Online E-pprentice Program.

Connection and possibility come naturally to Lesley, as she has also spearheaded North Island initiatives to connect community to local chefs, farmers, fishers and producers. After 14 years as president, she currently supports the local food community by serving as chair of the North Vancouver Island Culinary Association. Her skills and talents have been recognized beyond her local community. In 2017, Lesley was inducted into the Prestigious Honour Society of the Canadian Culinary Federation, one of the highest accolades bestowed upon a Canadian chef. Lesley is only the fifth woman in Canada to receive this recognition.

“Congratulations Lesley on the being recognized as this year’s Distinguished Alumni. We are so proud to see your accomplishments and grateful that you’ve stayed connected with our community,” says Dr. Lane Trotter, president of 91AV.

Lesley is also distinguished by her trademark pink chef’s jacket. “I started my career during a time when chef’s clothes came in one size and it wasn’t mine,” she says. “I discovered this fitted chef’s jacket made by a Vancouver-based apparel designer, and it quickly became my signature look. As I’m usually the person organizing things, my pink chef’s jacket is a way to find me.”

Her advice to new grads and recent alumni reflects Lesley’s can-do attitude. “Always help out and volunteer at any opportunity. That’s how you learn and grow. It gives you a chance to meet new people and try new things.”

The annual alumni awards highlight the outstanding achievements of individuals who exemplify Camosun's commitment to excellence and service, and who continue to make significant contributions in their fields. Camosun’s Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes outstanding alumni who have graduated more than 10 years ago.

Contact information

Rodney Porter

Executive Director, Communications & Marketing