At George Brown Chef's School, we've got the secret recipe for a successful culinary career. In fact, we've earned an international reputation for producing outstanding culinary graduates. Some of the country's top chefs - including Mark McEwan, Jamie Kennedy, Chris Boland and Bonnie Stern - are George Brown graduates. George Brown is also the home of Canada's gold medal winning student Culinary Olympic team.
SOME OF OUR MANY SUCCESSFUL GRADUATES...
"George Brown's Chef School has a strong focus on the fundamentals of good-quality cooking skills and knowledge."
Mark McEwan, North 44° Restaurant. (Alumni)
Jamie Kennedy is one of Canada's most celebrated and talented chefs. Having graduated from the cook apprenticeship program at George Brown in 1977, he is recognized as one of the pioneers of contemporary Canadian cuisine, creating menus and dishes that are distinctively Canadian. He is also the author of two acclaimed cookbooks that feature his innovative recipes, and is a passionate proponent of high quality, fresh ingredients and advocate for locally grown organic produce. Kennedy's talents as a chef have earned him significant professional recognition, including the Ontario Hostelry Institute Gold Award for Chef of the Year in 2000.
As the owner and executive chef of JK ROM at the Royal Ontario Museum and previously as partner and chef at Palmerston Restaurant, Kennedy is a successful restaurateur. He also has a reputation as a generous supporter of local causes and is an enthusiastic participant and organizer in charitable events, including Empty Bowls and Feast of Fields. Kennedy says George Brown provided him with the knowledge and skills to prepare him for his career as a chef and considers his classroom time there as important to his development and training at the Windsor Arms.
Peter McKnight entered the two-year culinary program at George Brown, and impressed his instructors so much that he was hired as an assistant to one of the professors after graduation. Following his stint at George Brown, he went to work as a chef at Toronto's A la Carte Catering, where he had previously done a great deal of apprenticing. The opportunity at Wish soon came up and the 40 seat restaurant (with a 30-seat patio) opened in June 2001, with McKnight taking the helm shortly after. McKnight cooks in a style he calls "French eclectic. I keep it very simple", he says. It's the essence of French cuisine; the simplicity, the enhancing of ingredients - I let the food speak for itself rather than manipulating it".
Scott Baechler began an apprenticeship at The Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel under esteemed chef John Higgins, whom he calls a mentor. After four years at the King Eddy, he moved on to Hogan's Inn in King City. After a brief stint, he vacationed for a few months and returned to Canada. He has since worked at the Rimrock Hotel in Banff, the Empress Hotel in Victoria and this past February has accepted his first executive chef post at Diva the Metropolitan Hotel in Vancouver.
Baking - Pre-Employment - H108
Jenna Placey was working for a marketing company when she decided she wanted more control over her career. The idea of starting her own business appealed, but she was initially unsure of what to focus on. “I was baking a lot at the time and inspiration struck – I’d become a baker!” remembers Jenna. “When I was young, I baked with my grandmother, and I’ve always loved it. It was a drastic switch from business which is what I studied at university, but it felt like a more natural fit.” [Read Jenna Placey's story]
Pamela MacDonald and Liako Dertilis
Chef Training - H112
What comes to mind when you think about the centre of a cornmeal muffin? Surely not a boiled egg. What about the pairing of Moroccan spices with shortbread or a hot chocolate with shaved chocolate and gummy worms? These unique combinations are the creations of Pamela MacDonald and Liako Dertilis, two innovative chefs who met at George Brown in 2005 as students in the Culinary Management program.
Since then, they have won awards for their recipe collaborations and have opened their own New York-style coffee house. Located across the street from a TTC streetcar yard, the café is aptly named Red Rocket Coffee. [Read more...]
Food Network Celebrity chef Roger Mooking wins 2012 Premier’s Award for Outstanding College Graduates
Roger Mooking’s career is red hot! In November, the George Brown Culinary Management grad was announced as one of six winners of the prestigious Premier’s Award. This honour is the latest achievement in the enviable career Roger has built for himself since graduating from George Brown in 2001. [Read more...]
Italian Culinary Arts Program - H411
After deciding to pursue a long-term interest in the restaurant industry, Sonya Franceschini was quickly drawn to the Italian Culinary Arts Program at GBC, the only one of its kind in Canada.
The reputation of the George Brown Chef School appealed to her, as did the four-month externship in Italy that comprises the second half of the program.
From the outset, Sonya knew she wanted to be specifically involved with Italian cuisine.
"My background is Italian; I was raised around the culture and food, and have travelled extensively through Italy, so it was always my main interest," she explains.
After being accepted into the program and starting school, Sonya was struck by how small and well organized the classes were.
"It was a highly professional atmosphere" she says. "And because it's a postgraduate program, everyone was really enthusiastic to be there." [Read more...]
Kelly Hughes and Heather Baker
Graduated - 1994 & 2002
Graduates of George Brown College’s culinary program, Kelly Hughes and Heather Baker apply their craft in PC’s Brampton-based test kitchen, creating and testing new recipes using a steady supply of new PC products that come from around the world.
“Like any art form, the possibilities with food preparation are infinite,” says Kelly, who first studied fine art at university before pursuing a culinary career.
Heather, who also earned a diploma in Fashion Management at George Brown, says they are constantly learning in the kitchen. “We are experimenting with brand new products all the time, turning them into recipes that we think people will find both fabulous and affordable.” [Read more...]
Vicky Cheng can add a new addition to his many accomplishments, he has been selected as the 2006 recipient of the Recent Graduate Premier's Award.
If the past two years are any indication, Vicky Cheng has an amazing future as a chef. Just 21 years old and recently graduated from the Culinary Management program at George Brown College, Cheng has won a number of culinary competitions, including a bronze award in the national television competition The Next Great Chef. More recently, Cheng placed first in both Ontario Challenge Cooks Competition and Sobey's Hot and Spicy Iron Chef Competition III. When he's not winning culinary competitions, Cheng is the tournant / saucier in the kitchen of Toronto's Auberge du Pommier. The upscale French restaurant, owned by Oliver Bonacini, has been named one of the 10 best restaurants in Toronto. Cheng is also apprentice to Auberge's Executive Chef Jason Bangerter. Born in Hong Kong, Cheng moved to Toronto as a high school student and started working at Auberge on a co-op term. He was hired full-time upon graduation. Mentored by Bangerter, Cheng entered the Culinary Management program at George Brown, where he kept up a gruelling schedule, attending classes from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then working full-time at Auberge from 2 p.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. While preparing for The Next Great Chef competition, he added a nightly practice session lasting till 4 a.m. His hard work has paid off. Besides placing third in the national television competition, Cheng has since added several other culinary victories to his credit. [Read more...]
With the clock counting down for competitors at the 2006 San Pellegrino "Almost Famous" Chef Competition in California this past October, George Brown Chef School apprentice Patrick Kriss began to experience the most stressful - and unforgettable - 45 minutes of his life. His ravioli of braised sweet breads had taken slightly longer to cook, forcing him to turn the heat up on the rest of his carefully planned menu in order to finish on time.
"There was no way to get around the time crunch other than to move faster, and so I told myself that I'd travelled all the way here from Toronto so I just better get it done," says Kriss. "It was nerve wracking, but fun and exciting all at the same time."
It is not surprising that someone of Kriss's calibre in the kitchen chose speed and skill, rather than shortcuts in quality, to deliver his six-course menu on time. As a graduate of the George Brown Chef School apprenticeship program, Kriss was trained under a style quite the opposite of cutting corners. "My instructors at George Brown Collge reinforced the importance of cooking in a proper and disciplined manner." [Read more...]
Judson Simpson, CCC
Judson "Jud" Simpson has been executive chef of Food Services at the House of Commons in Ottawa since July 1991.
Jud graduated from George Brown College in 1981 with honours, two scholarships and the Dean's Award.
During his apprenticeship years, Jud worked at many Toronto landmarks such as Fenton's, Hazelton Lanes, the Inn on the Park and Napoleon's. Afterwards, in order to perfect his skills in garde-manger, Jud became part of the brigade at the historical King Edward Hotel. In the spring of 1985, Jud took on the position of executive sous-chef at the Sheraton Toronto East Hotel where he was proudly responsible for Whitesides, the hotel's fine dining room. In 1989, Jud became executive chef at the Chimo Hotel Markham, ushering in a new dimension of cuisine and supporting the hotel chain in its menu planning and food programs. [Read more...]
Works as a Continuing Education instructor at George Brown College
"Courses at George Brown give students the opportunity to ingest the knowledge," Robert Rainford says, adding that the college is the ideal place to transition from wanting to become a chef to being one.
His advice to those aspiring to be chefs - get a good education.
"Educate yourself by getting into an accredited, reputable program." [Read more...]
Executive Chef of Hilton Toronto
A homegrown talent, Chef John Cirillo was born in Toronto in 1965 and is a graduate from the Culinary Program at George Brown College . At the age of just 17, he began his career as a chef with an apprenticeship at the Hilton Toronto Airport. Leaving Canada in 1987, Chef spent several years in Europe, acquiring invaluable experience first in London working at the Hilton on Park Lane , and later at the Hilton Basel (Switzerland) where he specialized in Continental European Cuisine. He returned to Toronto in the early 90s and earned his diploma as a Certified Chef de Cuisine (C.C.C.), the highest level obtainable for chefs in Canada.
Between 1994 and 1996, Chef Cirillo was Executive Sous Chef at the Hilton Toronto, working under the legendary Chef Albert Schnell. At 31, he returned to the Hilton Toronto Airport as Executive Chef. Four years later, Chef Cirillo was appointed to the position of Executive Chef of the Hilton Toronto and Tundra Restaurant where he redefined Canadian cuisine until his departure in 2006.
Chef Cirillo's dream of opening his own recreational cooking school came to life in 2009 when he and his wife, Margit, launched Cirillo’s Culinary Academy, a state-of-the-art facility located in the heart of Toronto's Islington Village. In the summer of 2010, Chef Cirillo extended the Cirillo’s brand with the launch of his first restaurant – "Oregano by Cirillo's" – a neighbourhood bistro-grill located next door to the Academy.
Find out more about Chef Cirillo and the Cirillo's Culinary Academy here
Culinary Management – H100
With an MBA in marketing and 13 years of experience with companies like Kellogg's, Uncle Ben's and Dreyer's, Amy Bracco was an expert at getting new products to fly off the shelves.
The problem was she wasn't learning anything new or really enjoying her work.
"So I quit," says the 41-year-old Michigan-native.
In her late thirties, Bracco went back to school to master one of her passions — cooking. After taking a few courses through Continuing Education at George Brown, she decided to enrol in the full-time Culinary Management program.
"The curriculum is pretty extensive and complete," says Bracco. "What I liked most was the hands-on experience I got from the labs and the professional relationships with the chef professors, which then led to job opportunities." [Read more...]
Culinary Management – H100
To Radford Cook, cooking is more than a hobby, a passion or even a calling — it is a skill that is essential to life.
He adopted this outlook on his future career while travelling through Europe (and working odd jobs to pay for the trip) after high school.
"I realized that if I knew how to cook, I could always have a job and I could always eat," he says. “Cooking is a life skill. It's something you can do everywhere and everyday."
With this in mind, Cook enrolled in the Culinary Management program at George Brown College after he returned to Canada from his year abroad. He completed the two-year program in 1982. [Read more...]
Basic and Advanced Baking Certificate
When D'Oyen Christie was a young boy growing up in Jamaica, his mother baked and sold pastries out of their home. Although he would often help her, he never thought that when he grew up, he would make desserts decadent enough for royalty.
But the last time the Queen visited Victoria, BC in 2002, it was Christie's pastry panache that she enjoyed while dining at the Fairmont Empress hotel where he is the Executive Pastry Chef.
"I just kept thinking, 'this little Jamaican boy is making dessert for the Queen'," Christie says, looking back on that memorable but nerve-wracking experience.
It's an honour that he deserves, having dedicated much of his life to the art of pastry making. While attending high school in Jamaica, Christie took Home Economics despite being one of only two boys in the class and when he moved to Toronto at 17, he focused on food and nutrition at Central Tech. [Read more...]
When Chef Michael Olson applied for the Culinary Management program at George Brown College in 1985, he was disappointed to hear the program was full for that school year.
"I called admissions and spoke to a woman named Maria Parks," he recalls. “I said to her, 'you have to understand how important this is. I'm not going to take no for an answer.' Somehow, I talked her into letting me in."
It was a very fortunate thing that Olson was convincing enough and Parks was understanding enough to accept the young aspiring chef into the popular cooking program.
Since graduating from George Brown in 1987, Olson has worked in quality restaurants like Toronto's Cocco Lezonne and the Liberty, Oakville's Navy Blues, Jordan's Inn on the Twenty (where he met his wife Anna, host of Food Network's Sugar) and Niagara Fall's 17 Noir. Olson is considered a pioneer in the use of fresh local ingredients and the harmonious marriage of food and wine. He is now passing his experience and passion on to a new generation of cooks at Niagara College. [Read more...]
General Manager the Faculty Club at the University of Toronto.
Leanne Pepper has been working in the hospitality industry ever since she was old enough to get a job. From scooping ice cream to housekeeping to waitressing, Pepper did it all.
While some teenagers took service jobs out of necessity, she took them out of interest. "People loved to be taken care of and I had a passion for that," she recalls.
Pepper, who grew up in London, Ontario, worked for three years at Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta where she got her first taste of working in the kitchen. She was hooked and wanted to learn more but the chefs were too busy to teach her their tricks of the trade.
"I had been working in the industry for all my life so I really felt I wanted to bring it all together. The only way to get training was to go back to school," she says. [Read more...]
At one time, Chef James Stewart was learning how to draft blue prints and design buildings. Then one day, he decided he would rather cook instead.
Stewart's parents owned several coffee shops where he first got a taste of the chef's life. Stewart wanted more so he left the architecture program he was enrolled in and started on his way to becoming the executive chef he is today.
"I met a really good chef and he saw some potential in me so he set up an apprenticeship for me at the Regal Constellation," recalls Stewart.
Like all apprentices at that time, Stewart went to George Brown College for the in-class portion of the program. [Read more...]
Bonnie Stern wants everyone to have fun cooking. For almost 35 years, that’s been her number one goal and the secret to her success as one of Canada’s best-known and most-loved food experts. Owner of the Bonnie Stern School of Cooking and Cookware Shop in Toronto since 1973, she has taught countless people that cooking can be easy, fun and delicious through her cooking classes, her 12 best-selling cookbooks, her two national television shows, Bonnie Stern Cooks and Bonnie Stern Entertains, her countless appearances on other television and radio shows, as well as her weekly column in the National Post and the many articles she has contributed to magazines and newspapers throughout U.S. and Canada. [Read more...]
Culinary Management Program
When it’s cold outside, there’s no better place to be than in a warm kitchen! Meet a George Brown grad who has built an exciting culinary career developing delicious recipes in some of Canada’s top test kitchens. [Read more…]
Food and Nutrition Management, Graduated 2003
Food and Nutrition Management graduate, Elaine Lazzarato has the unique ability to walk into any commercial kitchen, see problems, and then solve them. “I am a fixer,” she says. After 22 years as a top producing food and beverage administrator and chef manager, she saw a need for a fix of her own—a career change that would get her out of the kitchen and into people’s lives.
To gain the right qualifications, Elaine enrolled in George Brown’s Food and Nutrition Management Certificate in 2002. As the only program of its kind in Ontario, the curriculum prepares people who already have a culinary and hospitality background to work in hospitals, retirement homes and healthcare facilities. Students learn about food and nutrition through the lens of illness and/or aging - for example, how to make a plate of pureed pork chops look appetizing for someone on a textured diet. [Read more...]
Food and Nutrition Management – H402
Graduated in 1992
For Julia Phelan, there's more to work than punching the clock, getting the job done and going home at the end of the day.
"It's one thing to have a career and another thing to make the most of it,"says Phelan. "You have to take a deeper interest in what you do." After years of schooling and working in different industries, Phelan is now pursuing something she can really get into. Her mission as a food service professional in the healthcare field is to help solve the current obesity problem.
"It would be interesting to see obesity come away from private health care and become more of a medical problem than a personal problem,"she says.