Many culinary colleges – and their students – thrive on a rich relationship with Canada’s major branded companies, which support them through continuing programs and competitions. For many students, it’s the start of their careers.
By Jack Kohane
Eliotta Daoud is just such a student. Recalling her steaming plate of seared scallops, black tiger shrimp on an herbed rosti, topped with a warm tabouli salad with coconut parsnip purée, and drizzled in tumeric and chive oil, Daoud still savours her competition victory. The recent grad from Algonquin’s School of Hospitality and Tourism in Ottawa won gold as the top second-year student for her innovative recipe in the Les Toques Blanches & CCFCC Hot Food Competition, held at Algonquin College.
“Winning the competition was fulfilling and helped me realize that I can believe in myself and show creativity,” she says. “This win will help in my future career by giving me motivation and confidence to express my true passion within the culinary industry.” Proud of her achievement, the 20-something Daoud admits she had a head start on most of her scholastic competitors. “My parents are Lebanese, so they know about cooking seafood,” she says. “My mom did a lot of catering from home; my father worked his way up in restaurants. I liked to be in the kitchen watching my dad cook. I was always intrigued with the culinary arts.” Daoud says she’s ready to pursue her dream in the culinary world. In fact, she was snapped up on graduation by Ottawa’s Play food & wine, a popular small-plates restaurant.
She credits her participation in Algonquin’s food competition with affording her the opportunity to challenge her culinary skills. “It allowed me to put my whole heart and creative energy into the challenge,” she asserts.
High Liner Foods’ win-win with Algonquin students
Behind that opportunity was High Liner Foods, which enjoys a relationship with Algonquin College.
The Lunenburg, NS-based North American processor and marketer of frozen fish and frozen seafood has been involved with the Algonquin College School of Hospitality Students Hot Food Competition since 2012. High Liner supplies the shrimp and scallops for the annual competition.
“It’s beneficial as it gives students awareness about seafood and hands-on cooking experience with High Liner Foods’ sustainable products,” states Philman George, the company’s Foodservice Division Chef and Culinary Manager. “These students will be our future chefs.”
Chef George, a graduate of the Culinary Management course at George Brown College in Toronto who has worked as a chef in Canada, Australia and the Caribbean, likes partnering with culinary colleges and their students. “In my opinion, it takes a village to foster new talent. If we can help get the best grads into top-tier restaurants, get their foothold as a chef, and continue to build their culinary art and skills, then hopefully culinary artistry in Canada will continue to prosper for years to come.”
Nestlé Professional supports the chefs of tomorrow
Over at Humber College, one of the next generation of chefs, Madhura Lakra, says she appreciates the leadership shown by Nestlé Professional. The company’s Minor’s line of bases and flavour concentrates became key ingredients in crafting her Chicken Kathi Roll and Paneer Tikka Kathi Roll recipes, both winners in the Nestlé Professional Food Truck Challenge hosted by Humber College School of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism.
Lakra took first prize: $1,000. Judging was based on taste, creative use of Minor’s products, preparation and technical skill, presentation, organization and sanitation. “Inspiration for my recipes came straight from my background,” says the 30-something Indian-born Lakra, who arrived in Canada in 2013 with her husband and now 6-year-old daughter. She was aware of Humber College’s international reputation in developing culinary talent, and enrolled in the school’s chef program as soon as she settled in Toronto.
“My recipes are my own, from concept to completion,” she notes, adding that the Nestlé Chicken Base as well as the Fire Roasted Jalapeño Flavour Concentrate with its roasted chili and lime cilantro are the building blocks for her straight A recipes. “The taste is like the roadside foods we loved back home.” The Humber College Food Truck is a new initiative of the school’s chef apprenticeship program, one that steers the truck around Ontario visiting high schools to market Humber College’s culinary programs and to attract bright new talent among Grade 11 and 12 students. Nestlé’s Executive Chef Adam Cowan is excited to foster the growth of tomorrow’s chefs. “All of them are making their own mark in the industry,” he says. “I love connecting with chefs right at the start of their careers.”
Partnering with some of the country’s best culinary colleges, like Humber and George Brown College, also helps create new opportunities for his own education. “These schools are a great place for me to tap into, to identify new trends and preparation techniques, and to find out what young people are buzzing about,” he adds. For her part, Lakra thrives on the learning experience. “The teachers are great, but being in a food competition like the Food Truck Challenge means we go beyond the books,” she says. The win will be another notch in her growing portfolio of culinary accomplishments. Her life’s dream is to open a small family restaurant. “I am totally pumped to take on new challenges.”