Conestoga news

February 5, 2014 9:00 AM

Culinary Arts students showcase their talent

Conestoga student Jesse Lorbetskie’s progression from building kitchens to working in them is all part of his master plan: to one day open his own restaurant.

Lorbetskie joined his fellow Conestoga culinary arts students who teamed up with top chefs from 11 local restaurants for the third annual Iron Chef competition at Bingemans on Thursday, January 30.

Teams were tasked with creating their best dish using a common ingredient chosen beforehand. This year’s ingredient was duck. Teams were judged on taste, creativity and presentation by a panel of celebrity judges and event ticket holders.

For Lorbetskie, the event was an opportunity to hone his skills and learn what it takes to work in a professional kitchen.

“This is a huge event for me and my classmates. It’s our first practical test where you have to be fast and you have to be accurate,” said Lorbetskie. “I hope the chefs are ruthless and I hope they pick us apart, because that’s how it is in the real world."

Two years out of high school, Lorbetskie thought he had found his career building and installing kitchens. But he soon realized that he wanted to do something more.

“One day I decided that building kitchens was not what I wanted to do any more - I didn’t want to work for someone else. I wanted to get my own career and be a business owner,” said Lorbetskie.

DomPhoto.jpg Owning a business is something that Conestoga alumnus Dominic Ellis knows well. He is owner and head chef of Gusto Catering Company, one of the 11 restaurants competing at this year’s Iron Chef event. Working with Conestoga culinary students in a competition like this is important to the busy chef.

“This event is fantastic for the students,” said Ellis. “A lot of times they’re cooking in the classroom and not out with members of the public.This exposure is good for them and gets them used to the realities of the chef world.”

Like Lorbetski, Ellis started his career on a different path.

“I actually had a business degree prior to coming to Conestoga,” explained Ellis. “I knew I wanted to open Gusto, so I came to Conestoga to get some formal schooling in the kitchen.”

The event also provided an opportunity for the culinary program to promote Bloom, an upscale student-run restaurant located at Conestoga’s Waterloo campus. The restaurant, open to the public, features high-end menus in a ‘live classroom’ setting where students prepare and serve the meals.

Sponsored by King Cole Duck, Bingemans, RBC and Rogers Media Group, the event raised over $15,000 for student scholarships at Conestoga.

For Lorbetski, the event also brought him one step closer to his dream of opening a restaurant.

“The skills I am learning at Conestoga are pointing me in the right direction and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.”

Conestoga offers a variety of Hospitality and Culinary programs. For more information, visit the program website.