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February 1, 2010 1:58 PM

Tasting the work of future chefs

In the middle of winter, few people want to venture far from home. At the same time, the routines of day-to-day life can seem quite confining.

One way to cheer yourself up, experience something new, and even help provide good food for the future is to visit one of three area schools that train future chefs.

Conestoga College

Conestoga College has been training chefs through its culinary arts and management courses for more than 30 years and it has been offering lunches for more than 25.

An extensive makeover at the Waterloo campus, the former University Heights High School on University Avenue East near Weber Street, has resulted in teaching labs and a full teaching kitchen. And what was once the backstage area of the high school auditorium is now a restfully decorated venue with seating for about 50 diners and candles and flowers on every table.

The students work in teams that are responsible on a series of days for tasks that include everything from waiting on tables to baking bread, planning menus and creating the meals to be served.

Diners are presented with a menu of choices (see the website for detail) and can choose to have two, three or all four courses.

Wine or a cocktail is also available. A recent menu was typical of the offerings: a wild mushroom soup or warm spinach and goat cheese salad; halibut or chicken; leek pot pie or pork tenderloin medallions; and for dessert, chocolate mousse or apple crumble.

Depending on your choices, the price would range from $11 to $18 (payable with cash, debit, Mastercard or Visa). The service is attentive, beginning in the parking lot - where a student gives diners a pass for free parking - through to the careful presentation of each dish. Tips go into a fund to take the students on a fine-dining excursion.

This story was originally featured in the Record, written by Vinnie Buchanan

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