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.
Now as a hospitality services teacher at Brother Andre Catholic High School in Markham, Ontario, Cook is helping his students learn this important life skill which they can use everyday regardless if they choose cooking as their profession.
Many of his students are interested in becoming chefs and go on to the George Brown Chef School. Cook encourages them to take this route based on his own experience.
"I thought the program was excellent and gave a good foundation in the industry," he says.
To give his students firsthand exposure to his alma mater, Cook brought them to the first annual Chefs in the City™ event, hosted by the Chef School in March 2006. "It was great," he says of the two-day event that included several cooking competitions for high school students and cook apprentices. "Everyone was very warm and welcoming." Cook's students fared well against the other high school teams, winning Gold in the Knorr Ready Set Cook and Win Culinary Competition.
Chefs in the City™ is designed to give students hands-on experience in the kitchen — something that Cook remembers fondly from his days at George Brown.
"My most memorable moment from the program was preparing a dinner for Francis Ford Coppola, Margot Kidder and her date, Pierre Trudeau. My job was to keep the ice sculptures steady in the back of the truck on the way to the dinner hall," he says with a laugh.
The knowledge and experience that Cook gained from the program helped him move quickly through the ranks once he graduated. While apprenticing at the Royal York, he started out as the roast cook and by the end, had been promoted to night cook.
Since graduating, he has worked at George's Spaghetti House, Encore Catering and most notably, he established the Wing Machine chain in the 1990s. After opening 14 locations, Cook had to sell the franchise as the recession was taking its toll on the business.
After closing that chapter of his career, he decided to attend the University of Toronto for a teaching certificate. "Teaching was my first choice 10 years earlier but then I had an idea for the Wing Machine," he explains. "So basically I went back to where I was going in the first place." Cook loves helping his students learn an important skill and discover their passion for culinary arts but he admits that his inner entrepreneur is always cooking up new ideas.