Conestoga news

June 21, 2024 12:05 PM

Conestoga celebrates 20th anniversary of Institut Lyfe Alliance

More than 30 people gathered at Bloom, the student-run restaurant at the college’s Waterloo campus, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Institut Lyfe Alliance on May 23.

(Pictured L-R) Bloom Maître D Darryl Haus, students Bennett Schmidt and Mitchell Paul, and Bloom executive chef Dan McCowan at Institut Lyfe in Lyon, France.

The gathering welcomed alumni of the School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts, local culinary industry partners, and employees of the college for a light dinner, networking, and a chance to celebrate the Alliance’s anniversary and Conestoga’s membership since 2017 as the only Canadian partner school.

Formerly known as the Paul Bocuse Culinary Institute, Institut Lyfe’s Alliance was founded in 2004 and connects institutions that share educational values and the common goal of promoting and developing the professions of culinary arts and hotel and restaurant management. Its membership includes 26 of the world’s top hospitality management and culinary arts schools across 22 countries.

“As an Alliance member, we are afforded the opportunity to engage with the best culinary and hospitality schools around the world,” said Keith Müller, executive dean, School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts & Food Processing Technology.

The event also provided a chance to hear from a Conestoga student who studied at Institut Lyfe in Lyon, France. Alliance membership opens doors for students to travel and learn at the reputable institution.

“Over the duration of the partnership, we have been able to send two to three students per year, giving them the opportunity to hone their skills, be immersed in French food and culture, and forge relationships with other students from around the world,” added Müller.

Mitchell Paul, a student in the Culinary Management program, is currently working in a co-op placement in France through Institut Lyfe, and articulated some of the specific benefits that come with the experience.

"You get to learn the culture and cuisine from one of the best places on earth when it comes to the food scene. You are pushed daily to go out of your comfort zone and learn new things and even a new language,” said Paul, who also noted his studies at Conestoga were an important stepping stone.

“It would have been impossible without first going to Conestoga, where you learn the fundamentals in the kitchen and the etiquette of what it's like to be a chef. Both experiences have been challenging and necessary."

In addition to educating students, Conestoga has also benefitted from the professional development opportunities that Institut Lyfe has offered to the instructors at the college. Dan McCowan, executive chef of Bloom, recently travelled to France for training at the Institut and spoke highly of the experience.

"It was a great and truly inspiring experience to attend the recent chef faculty training program at Institute Lyfe,” said McCowan.

“Being able to see how they deliver their culinary programs first-hand, working closely with their chefs, and having the opportunity to work in their many food service outlets from the student commissary to their Michelin star restaurant Saison was an incredible opportunity. It will no doubt be very beneficial to the development of my role at Conestoga, and to the ongoing growth of our culinary program,” added McCowan.

“Sharing ideas and collaborating in projects as well as student and faculty exchange - as the exclusive Canadian partner, this sets Conestoga apart,” summarized Müller, who also added that showcasing the college and its state-of-the-art culinary facilities for events and activities, building on Conestoga’s hosting of 17 partner schools for a week-long Institut Lyfe seminar in 2022, will also continue to play a role in Conestoga’s Alliance membership going forward.

Named among Canada’s best culinary schools in 2024 by University Magazine, Conestoga’s School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts is a leader in culinary and hospitality programming that prepares students for successful careers in Canada’s tourism industry. Students learn from faculty members with extensive industry experience as they develop practical knowledge and theoretical skills. The Waterloo campus is home to its state-of-the-art culinary skills labs and student-run Bloom restaurant.