Volume 48, Number Three
F&H shines the spotlight on eight of the Ontario Hostelry Institute’s Top 30 Under 30 award recipients. These astute up-and-comers are smart, innovative freethinkers who are setting new standards across the industry, from contributing to recipe development at Loblaw Companies Ltd. to leading the kitchen at Toronto’s Brassaii restaurant
He’s only 21, but Benjamin Lillico has been embracing his “sense of place” in the kitchen, the garden and the world for more than five years. His journey began as a hi gh-school student learning about from-scratch cooking with local ingredients from Michael Hodgson, executive chef at the Kitchener, Ont.-based Charcoal Group. At the time, Lillico was completing a culinary apprenticeship through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, earning high-school credits and post-secondary education at Conestoga college in Waterloo, Ont. Later, the astute multitasker won gold provincially and bronze nationally at the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs junior black box competition while attending Niagara College in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. These days, and for the past two years, he’s celebrating new victories at Cambridge, Ont.’s renowned Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa — rising from roles such as entremetier and saucier to senior chef de partie. “[Ben] is polite, respectful and professional, showing a heightened focus,” says Jason Bangerter, executive chef at Langdon Hall. “Many cooks walk through the kitchen, and, out of 50, you are lucky if one gets it. Ben gets it.” His commitment is as solid as the gold and silver medal wins he’s claimed on the international stage as a member of Junior Culinary Team Canada. Fresh off a fifth-place finish at the Boch Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg last year, the toque is preparing to compete at the Culinary Olympics in Germany in 2016. “I can’t wait to see what he does next,” says Scott Baechler, Culinary Team Canada.
The Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) is a beacon connecting businesses in the city, not unlike Carolina Ventura, who’s been climbing the corporate ladder and serving as a connection to various departments at the organization for the past four years. Upon graduating from Centennial College’s Hospitality Management, Hotels & Resorts program in 2011 — with two scholarships, one for landing the highest GPA in her final year — Ventura settled in as event coordinator at the convention centre. Last year, she was promoted to the role of assistant catering manager and was charged with developing and implementing improved software, creating quarterly fiscal forecasting reports, collaborating with various departments to execute contracts and more. She’s worked on various events, including The Canadian International Auto Show, the Gold Medal Plates Gala and the 100th Grey Cup Festival. “Carolina has an insatiable desire to learn and never refuses an opportunity to take on a task, support a colleague, learn a new process or teach a new team member,” says Camille Allman, director, Catering, speaking of the employee who has earned various MTCC Gem Awards for going above the call of duty and supporting her community. “Carolina consistently shows a can-do attitude and is regarded as a go-to person by many people within our organization.”
Christine Fancy’s future was set long before she was tasked with crafting more than 500 fortune cookies in batches of three over a series of days. In fact, she baked tourtière, apple pie and Christmas cookies with her mom as a child. But, Fancy honed her skills in the Culinary Management program at Humber College and has since worked at well-regarded restaurants across Toronto, including Colborne Lane, Origin and Auberge du Pommier. The toque settled at the trendy Drake One Fifty when it opened in 2013 and impressed management so much that she’s since been named pastry chef of Drake Hotel Properties. She’s responsible for the dessert program at The Drake Hotel in Toronto, The Drake Devonshire in Prince Edward County, Ont. and the Drake One Fifty restaurant in Toronto. Between managing operations and staff at three restaurants, as well as handling administrative and managerial duties, Fancy fills the menus with comfort offerings. Imagine buckwheat butter tarts with Earl Grey ice cream and apricot jam; chocolate-banana cake with peanut butter, caramelized bananas and bacon brittle; and Baked Alaska with persimmon sorbet, vanilla ice cream and sticky-toffee pudding — a sweet Globe and Mail food writer Chris Nuttall-Smith says nearly made him feel like he had been transported to “another, better, place.” She keeps her pulse on the industry, driving the Drake dessert menus forward. “Christine is constantly keeping current and involved in the hospitality community as a leader and mentor [who forecasts] trends and industry demands within the Ontario food scene,” says Alexandra Feswick, chef de cuisine, The Drake Hotel.
Sarah Atzmueller has been getting to the meat of the matter for the past four years. After spending four months working as a cook at La Capriata Ristorante in Bologna, Italy, as part of a program offered by the renowned ALMA International School of Italian Cuisine in Colorno, Italy, the George Brown culinary graduate found her calling at The Healthy Butcher in Toronto. She began as an apprentice but quickly rose through the ranks, taking initiatives to create a smoother workflow at the store after one year, rising to the role of understudy to the butcher after two years and becoming the Queen Street store’s head butcher after three years. “Of all the young apprentices we’ve hired and trained, no one has impressed me more,” says David Meli, executive head butcher of The Healthy Butcher. “Sarah has the ability to motivate and train her staff to run the Queen store better than it has ever been run.” Atzmueller butchers whole animals and carcasses and merchandises the meat while reducing labour costs and working to increase sales. She leads four butchers and executes her responsibilities with what Meli describes as a strong work ethic, sound organization and passion. In fact, Atzmueller recently travelled to an organic pork farm to get hands-on experience with wild-boar hunting, proving her worth in a male-dominated sector.
Marcus Monteiro has eaten his way through 25 countries and 100 cities; staged at four Michelin-star restaurants (including The Fat Duck and Noma); cooked for actors such as Sir Ben Kingsley, Michael Douglas and Jennifer Aniston; and appeared on shows such as CTV’s Canada AM, City’s Breakfast Television and NewsTalk 1010. The executive chef at Toronto’s Brassaii café, restaurant and lounge is serious about his craft, and it shows on the plate. Since taking the helm in 2014, he’s been responsible for creating seasonal menus, overseeing food costs and leading a team to execute his vision. The seasonal, regional Mediterranean menu is complemented by in-house cheese and meat programs. It includes dishes such as fresh ricotta gnocchi with hen of the woods, truffle, arugula and fresh thyme ($26); a half rack of crispy ribs with potato purée, Moroccan glaze and mint chutney ($17); and comfort nosh such as chicken and waffles ($15). The Niagara College Culinary Management graduate has already won praise from Noma’s acclaimed chef René Redzepi in Denmark for his juniper wood-smoked salt-cured pike with sloeberry purée, pickled sloeberries and pea-so (like miso, but with yellow peas) finished with a pine-infused, cold-clarified, fish-fumet stew. And, he’s long won respect in Toronto, too. Doug Neigel, executive chef, Mercatto Restaurant Group, worked with Monteiro in 2013 after he returned from staging abroad. The veteran chef was impressed: “He managed the many challenges of running a restaurant kitchen with tenacity,” Neigel says. “He has a sense of seeing the whole restaurant as a business and [has] a strong desire to learn more…. He has a constant and contagious affection for food.” So, it’s little surprise the 29-year-old toque dreams of running multiple restaurants, with one or two in different countries to feed his hunger for travel. Either way, Monteiro’s goals are clear: “I eat to survive, I cook to live,” he says.
Mary Catherine Wasilik has evolved from her role as a student at Niagara College in Ontario to that of an educator and advocate at Rosewood Estates Winery in Beamsville, Ont., sharing her love of wine with employees, guests and special event clients. What began as an internship in the vineyards and an assistant winemaker position evolved into a customer experience opportunity — a department where Wasilik shone. “We’ve now had over 20 student interns from various schools, and the whole team can agree that there’s been no one quite like Mary Catherine,” says Krystina Roman, director of Sales and Marketing at Rosewood Estates Winery. “We couldn’t let go of Mary Catherine; she had such a positive impact on our guest experience, so she stayed on after her internship and took on more responsibilities.” Last year, the graduate of Niagara’s Winery & Viticulture Technician program was named the customer experience coordinator and the Wine Club concierge. With a list of responsibilities that range from co-ordinating private events to developing, launching and promoting a new wine club, creating monthly newsletters for customers, ensuring employees are up to date with retail protocol, creating tasting menus, attending off-site events and co-ordinating special events such as winery dinners and even weddings, Wasilik is spreading the buzz about Rosewood’s picturesque setting, rich harvest and growing bee business.
Sophie Doria isn’t afraid to step outside her comfort zone. Intent on fuelling her passion for cooking, six years ago she waved goodbye to a successful career in commercial real estate to jump into the culinary world full-time. The York University Bachelor of Business Administration grad signed up for the Culinary Management program at Toronto’s Humber College, which she completed concurrently with the Culinary Apprentice Program, and she hasn’t slowed down since landing a local job placement at Auberge du Pommier. Spurred by her professors, she’s represented the Canadian Culinary Federation locally and abroad in competitions and workshops (earning first- and second-place finishes along the way). She was also part of a group of Humber students invited to Ottawa’s Parliament Hill to cook for Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, in 2011. Later that year, the Humber President’s Medal recipient landed at Loblaw Companies Ltd. as a PC test kitchen chef. She’s since been part of the team that’s developed recipes such as bacon cheddar naan grilled cheese, PC salted caramel ice-cream and tomato-basil and three-cheese lasagna while also participating in media events, styling food for online videos and representing the brand on Breakfast Television. “Many team members, including senior management, often comment on Sophie’s attitude and willingness to help with any request,” says Kathlyne Ross, VP Product Development and Innovation, Loblaw. “Sophie exemplifies what our industry is looking for in young culinary professionals who are passionate, dedicated and show great strength of ability.”
These days, restaurant chefs have earned near rock-star status, but that certainly wasn’t what wooed Candace Rambert to the job of culinary technician at the Food Innovation & Research Studio at Toronto’s George Brown College in 2011. Instead the toque — who conceived more than 100 recipes in two years for the six pubs owned by Toronto’s Imago Restaurants Inc. — was excited to put her analytical skills to the test, leading students in creating recipes, developing product concepts and conducting nutritional analysis. Combining the cooking styles she learned at home in Trinidad and Tobago with what she learned attending GBC and completing a stage in Piacenza, Italy, the chef is now cultivating business through innovations in food science. She’s contributed to recipe development for Toronto High School cafeterias (butterless butter chicken), people living with Parkinson’s (Pina Colada cupcakes) and fledgling start-ups looking to create a well-rounded product (hibiscus tea). And, she’s influencing a new breed of blossoming chefs along the way. “She proactively demonstrates culinary techniques to student researchers to ensure the level of quality performance is understood and reached,” says Winnie Chiu, director, FIRSt. “She is extremely reliable and takes pride in her job as a culinary professional, while continuously advancing herself to learn about food science and technology.”