Conestoga news

June 21, 2007 1:57 PM

Mike Magda - Conestoga's Winning Chef

Mike Magda earned a Conestoga diploma from the Food and Beverage Management program in 2001. He returned to Conestoga as a chef technologist for the hospitality programs at the Waterloo campus in 2006. Now, he has been named by the Ontario Hostelry Institute as one of the year’s Top 30 Under 30 in the hospitality industry.

He and the other young professionals were feted by the Ontario Hostelry Institute at an awards dinner held April 19 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. More than 120 nominations were submitted in this year’s selection process.

Magda resides in Kitchener. He graduated from Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute before entering Conestoga. Following Conestoga, he went on to pursue cook apprenticeship training through Humber College in Toronto, completing his studies in 2004. That same year, he earned a gold medal in the culinary event at the Ontario Technological Skills Competition sponsored by Skills Canada – Ontario. He returned to Waterloo Region to apply his skills at establishments such as the Charcoal Steak House and King Street Trio, eventually becoming head chef at the latter.

At Conestoga, he works with individual students and student teams, providing practical instruction in the many aspects and detailed procedures associated with the growing number of hospitality programs offered at the new, larger campus in Waterloo.

Two of the Top 30 are employed at Ontario colleges – the other is at George Brown’s highly regarded culinary facility. Other winners are employed at places such as the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the Park Hyatt Hotel, the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, the Little Inn of Bayfield and Clublink Corporation.

The judging panel was a distinguished group which included senior executives from companies such as the Oliver Bonacini group of fine restaurants in Toronto, the internationally recognized Splendido Restaurant of Toronto, Alberta-based Tannin Fine Wines (a prominent supplier of superior wines to fine restaurants and wine retailers) and Lecours Wolfson Hospitality Management and Chef Recruiting (North America’s leading recruiter of hospitality executives, managers and chefs).

The Ontario Hostelry Institute is devoted to three goals: promoting and recognizing professional excellence, sponsoring student and professional development awards, and raising educational standards associated with post-secondary hospitality programs. The Institute also manages the Canadian Hospitality Foundation, the industry’s largest source of scholarships in the food service/hospitality field.

The Interview

Q When did you decide on a career in the Culinary Arts?

"As a small boy I loved to bake. My Grandmother spent a lot of time in the kitchen and I loved helping her. I have always been intrigued by the process of mixing ingredients together, and creating something wonderful to eat.”

Q You have mentioned that this career path is not for the faint of heart, or for folk who are looking for a comfortable 9-5 lifestyle. What is it that continues to fuel your passion for your career as a chef?

"I do have a passion for the culinary arts and no matter how satisfied I may be with the results of my efforts, I am constantly evaluating, always striving to make it a little bit better. There is a big difference between being a cook and being a chef. I strive always to be the best chef I can be. This is a career that has endless opportunities world-wide. I am very intrigued with the newest advances in Culinary Arts which includes molecular gastronomy. I find it very rewarding when a patron really appreciated the meal that I have prepared and has ventured outside of the "comfort-zone” to try something new.”

Q Why did you choose Conestoga College and how has your education helped you in your career?

"I chose Conestoga's Food and Beverage Management course because it has an excellent reputation."

"I am very excited about Conestoga’s intent to explore the expansion of the apprenticeship offering over the next year. I believe that this will provide more local students with multiple options and enable them to learn the whole area of culinary management.”

"Although I knew from the onset that I wanted to pursue a career as a chef, I am very happy that I took the Food and Beverage Management program first. It has provided me with a solid background in all aspects of culinary arts—such as team work, human resources, cost analysis, how to trouble-shoot and adapt to situations. These are all very much needed skills when working in the industry.”

"I am very happy to have the opportunity to teach at Conestoga. It is my way of being able to give back. Chef Phillipe was an inspiration to me, and I still strive to live up to his standards. By teaching in the program I hope that I can pass that legacy along.”

by John Sawicki and Monica Himmelman