The recently completed $58 million expansion of Conestoga College’s Waterloo Campus means an additional 150,000 sq.-ft. of space for classrooms, labs and students and as well the general public when it comes to continuing education and events. Inside, there are state-of-the-art culinary labs and a new—and as yet unnamed—student-run restaurant that will be open to the public, as well as a host of technology features that make the Campus a state-of-the-art culinary arts facility for Waterloo Region.
Conestoga College Culinary Arts Program
Many of the practical cooking and culinary theory instructors who will guide students through course work and practical cooking labs are, or have been, cooks and restaurateurs in Waterloo Region. Here’s a short overview of some of the local staff.
Recently appointed to the role of executive chef at the College’s new restaurant is Brad Lomanto, who was executive chef at the Cambridge Mill the past eight years. He graduated from the Niagara College culinary program and says he’s looking forward to the transition from a restaurant kitchen to one within an academic institution.
“What I’ve really enjoyed doing the most was teaching young restaurant staff that come in here as dishwashers or co-op students and turn it into a career. I loved being able to coach them and teach them new things,” says Lomanto.
Teaching is a part of professional kitchen, something that he benefitted from when he was starting out, he says. “Someone’s taking the time to work with you, so you make sure that you return that somewhere down the line.”
As the owner and operator of the very busy Little Louie’s Burger Joint and Soupery and Lilly Ruth Catering in Cambridge, Steve Allen has a long history in food and beverage in the Region.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of Canada, and a part-time instructor at Conestoga, he shares both his expertise in culinary techniques and his practical knowledge of the current trends in the industry teaching students culinary basics from knife skills to sauce and stock preparation and more. Allen is also an expert forager and often returns from the wilds of the Ontario countryside with plants, herbs and mushrooms.
One or another military general said, “An army marches on its stomach.” So, too, do professional kitchens: if there are no supplies, the restaurant is defeated. That’s where Sean Duffy comes in. He’s a quartermaster-sergeant of sorts at the College making sure there is equipment and supplies to cook.
A Waterloo Region native who attended the University of Waterloo for biochemistry before heading to culinary school at George Brown, Duffy helped run the kitchen at Nick and Nat Benninger’s Uptown 21 in Waterloo for seven years. Before that, he was also at Hannah’s Bella Bistro in Waterloo and worked in Jonathan Gushue’s kitchen at Langdon Hall .
A Red Seal certified chef, Duffy did an apprenticeship at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples Beach, FL., but it was his science brain that helped Duffy to design a centralized supply requisition system for Conestoga that is linked to prices; as it is in a restaurant, understanding and being able to track and control material and costs is crucial—especially when students move out into restaurants where there are razor-thin margins.
“It’s important for students to understand the importance of controlling supply lines and food and equipment costs,” he says.
Philippe Saraiva was born in Portugal and soon after moved with his to Saint-Quentin, a town about 90 minutes north of Paris. He could be called “accidental Canadian.” A vacation in the 1980s first brought Saraiva to Waterloo Region; when he arrived, he also brought a Certificat D’aptitude Professionnelle from Lycee Professionnel Colard Noel in Saint-Quentin.
“A lot of restaurants were looking for chefs then. When I was back at home, I applied to come to Canada for just one year to learn English,” he says. “Many years later I’m still here.”
Saraiva was working at the historic Walper Hotel in downtown Kitchener and soon after he was a guest instructor at Conestoga College. When a position to teach opened up at the College, he taught for a semester before going back to the industry. He taught Continuing Education classes part-time and joined the faculty full-time when the full culinary program was designed and put into place.
He teaches courses in the Hospitality and Tourism program including culinary theory, restaurant design, international cuisine and the art of catering. “Culinary theory includes food history, principles and techniques such as what happens when you cook a sauce, while restaurant design addresses equipment, how it is arranged in a kitchen, and creating logical space requirements for workability and accessibility issues, for instance.”
An interesting side note: Saraiva is an accomplished competitive ice carver. “I like competing and learning from the best in the world. They re-direct what I’m doing to make me a better carver. That’s what I see educators doing: not giving truth, but guiding students towards it,” says Saraiva, paraphrasing martial arts icon Bruce Lee.
Having grown up in Cambridge, Damien Ingrao draws on a mix of his Italian and German-Polish background for culinary inspiration.
“With the Italian side, the food was simple, fresh and rustic. It was amazing, and it was my primary influence. The way I cook today is very simple,” says Ingrao.
A Red Seal chef, Ingrao cut his teeth in the industry at Pioneer BBQ and worked at the Knotty Pine under Jeff Jakes in his early career before moving on to Blackshop! Restaurant and Wine Bar in Cambridge. He also worked in the kitchen at Langdon Hall when it vaulted into the Pellegrino “Top 100 Restaurants in the World.” “That was key to me,” he says. “It really put everything into perspective for me and was a very big part of my education.” For his students, he stresses organization, a key element he learned at Langdon, he says. “Most people see only the cooking side of it, but preparing your station for the day, doing service, and then getting ready for the next day is crucial to success.”
With a culinary degree from George Brown and an M.B.A. from the University of Guelph, Paul Torrance started working as a dishwasher in a Belwood, Ontario, restaurant in the mid-1990s at age 15.
“I just really liked the environment at the Schoolhouse Country Inn when I first started,” Torrance says who is a Certified Chef de Cuisine under the auspices of the Canadian Federation of Chefs and Cooks. “As I worked more, they kept giving me more tasks to do. I have never worked in another industry.”
When it came time to go to culinary school, he enrolled in the Chef Pre-Employment program and then went straight into the Italian Culinary Arts postgraduate program at George Brown. “One benefit was that I was able to get out of high school early,” he says with a laugh. “By the time my friends were graduating from Central Wellington District, I had two college diplomas and my Red Seal.” Torrance has worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Amaryllis in Scotland as well as stints from boutique hotels to 700-room casino and resort complexes along with gigs in Dubai and Chicago.
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