Special culinary treats coming for students at Niagara College campuses

By Don Redmond

Published September 19, 2022 at 11:26 am

A group of second-year Culinary Management students deliver vegan meals, which they prepared in class on the morning of September 9, for the College’s first culinary pop-up in the hospitality wing. Pop-ups will occur weekly at the Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake over the Fall term. (Photo: Niagara College)

A new school year, a new chance for the Niagara College’s new Culinary, Tourism and Beverage Studies division to strut their stuff.

Due to the fact that Niagara College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake and Welland campuses have been decidedly short of students for the past two years, due to the pandemic, the new group hitting the school in-person for the 2022-23 school year are about to be treated, said Craig Youdale, Dean of Culinary, Tourism and Beverage Studies.

Youdale said the program’s game plan was to rework the operations prior to COVID-19 but with students returning, “it became the perfect time to reimagine the future.”

“We had an opportunity to flip the script and create something new and better for our students, our community, and the industries we support,” said Youdale.

“I think just restarting the old model would be a lost opportunity and this new student-first approach will continue to grow and develop.”

To that end, those in other courses can get a taste of what students are producing in class – whether they’re picking up a takeout meal at a pop-up event, enjoying an a la carte lunch or five-course signature dinner at an on-campus venue, sampling student creations at an event or festival, and more.

Student restaurant Benchmark – which had been closed since March 2020 – will transition from a traditional restaurant operation “to a learning space and venue for a variety of ticketed lunch and dinner events and to support the Feed the Community program.”

As well, there will be “Weekly Culinary Pop-ups” featuring food and products made by students in their culinary labs – from meals ready to enjoy or packaged for take-out – will become a prominent fixture of the Hospitality wing lobby each Friday.

Upcoming popups include chicken/plant-based menu (September 23); stews, soups, schnitzel, fries and pork sandwiches (September 30); salmon dinner, fish (October 7); and five-course dinner (November 25 and December 2).

“This course has a real food service industry applied feeling, timing, standards, accuracy, pressure, and repetition; guest’s comments, critics and gratification,” said Chef Professor Olaf Mertens.

“It’s real industry standards played out within our College kitchens with real guests and many opportunities for guest feedback and interaction.”

Chef Mertens noted that he is ecstatic about new model and launch of new courses that equip students with experience in mass food production and repetitive skills work. Students will continue to practice French culinary cookery every week in the course while continuing to produce a ‘planted cuisine’ duplicate.

“Students elevate from cooking recipes to production, all while serving, feeding all people in our Niagara College community and food insecurities within our Niagara neighborhoods,” said Mertens.

The new Culinary, Tourism and Beverage Studies division, includes three distinct schools of study for the first time: Culinary Arts; Wine, Beer and Spirits; and Hospitality and Tourism – replacing the former Canadian Food and Wine Institute. The new division is aimed to spark new synergies between programs and fresh opportunities for students and the community.

Here, Youdale described how the programs are notified together for an entirely new program and some of the changes coming this term.

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