Meet this Year’s OHI Top 30 Under 30 Winners

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caseyA passion for chemistry fuelled Casey Kulczyk’s fascination with wine production, so he left his studies in applied pharmaceutical chemistry and joined the Niagara College Wine & Viticulture program. There he not only honed his tasting abilities, but studied winemaking and viticulture as well. After achieving the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level-three certification, Kulczyk landed an internship at Flat Rock Cellars in Lincoln, Ont., before investigating winemaking abroad under the tutelage of New Zealand winemaker Ross Wise. His journey continued to the Santa Cruz Mountains in California at Rhys Vineyards before leading him back to the Niagara Peninsula and a head winemaking position at the family-run Stonechurch Vineyards, where he helped introduce the vineyard’s first icewine in more than a decade. Since 2012, he’s been the assistant winemaker at Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate and is taking his love of wine to the next level. Working under head winemaker Marco Piccoli, Kulczyk participates in the vineyard’s blending and classification decisions, helps coordinate annual capacity planning, finds cost savings through inventory management and even acts as a brand ambassador at public events. “His career is just at the beginning of a long and successful journey,” says Piccoli, who praised Kulczyk’s contribution to wine-quality improvement. “Casey has worked very professionally, aligning his skills with the values of the biggest wine producer in Canada, maintaining focus on quality under higher levels of pressure.”

 

amberlynneAmberlynne Plourde always knew she was destined for a culinary career. In 2014, after spending several years in Niagara-region kitchens, the Niagara College graduate joined Toronto’s vibrant culinary scene. She quickly established herself as an integral member of The Drake Hotel’s culinary team, advancing from her original position of chef de partie to sous chef in less than a year. In her current role, Plourde manages the team of more than 20 cooks responsible for The Drake’s dining room, lounge, café, sushi bar and patios, as well as special events and catering operations. Plourde finds a constant source of inspiration and motivation in her experiences heading-up catered events, dreaming up themed menus with offerings such as a peanut butter and jelly-inspired dish of duck liver mousse with roasted peanut rosemary cream and sweet potato orange compote. Eager to take advantage of every opportunity, Plourde finds joy in participating in events beyond The Drake’s daily operations and has represented the hotel at community events such as Grow for The Stop and Eat to the Beat. She has also supported chef de cuisine Alexandra Feswick in competitions such as Gold Medal Plates. “Amberlynne is one of the most adaptable, intelligent and humble chefs I have had the privilege to work with,” says Feswick. “Not only is she extremely respectful, she handles responsibility with grace and kindness.”

 

brianBrian Cheng’s story begins with an entrepreneurial spirit and a love of cooking. The George Brown College graduate honed his skills in Canada, first as a cook at Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ont., then as a cook apprentice at Soho Metropolitan Hotel’s Senses Restaurant, before jet-setting to La Spezia in Italy to master the traditional dishes of the Liguria region. He soon nabbed a position with the Canadian Embassy in New Delhi, India, where he championed Canadian cuisine to international dignitaries. “He was consistently able to produce delicious and beautiful meals with a Canadian flair, using the often limited ingredients available to him,” says Stewart Beck, former High Commissioner for Canada in New Delhi. Today, the chef is the owner of The Edible Story, a modern kitchen, catering business and cooking school in downtown Toronto that he runs with partner Alanna Fleischer. In addition to overseeing kitchen operations, Cheng is responsible for menu planning, customer relations and product sourcing. Giving back to the community is a part of the chef’s mandate, whether it’s donating food for 300 attendees at the Rally for Kids with Cancer or offering event space to host charity events. “He is constantly supporting the college by employing students and alumni as well as supporting the local BIA to establish his entrepreneurial presence,” says Cindy Gouveia, president of the George Brown Foundation. “He has demonstrated passion and respect throughout his career.”

 

tariqWhile working as a farm hand at an organic farm and apple orchard in Copetown, Ont., Tarique Ahmed made a discovery that would ultimately launch his career in the burgeoning craft-cider industry. Ahmed uncovered a forgotten antique apple press that inspired him to teach himself all he could about making hard ciders. Recognizing there was a niche to fill in Ontario, Ahmed took what he learned and opened Revel Cider Co. Since launching the business in early 2015, his unique cider creations have garnered industry recognition — including Bronze at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition and a Gold medal from the 2015 Ontario Cider Awards. Revel’s range of ciders are created using only 100 per cent Ontario apples, hops, yeast and botanicals, resulting in ciders such as Spirit of the Woods, which is aged in Chardonnay barrels and finished with fresh Niagara peaches. To celebrate the company’s recent anniversary, Ahmed orchestrated and released a series of limited-edition small-batch ciders, dubbed the Revelations series. These brews were made available at bars and restaurants across the province already carrying Revel ciders — including Toronto, London, Guelph and Hamilton. “A start-up’s success is intimately tied to the character of its leader,” says Kevin Boon, client services manager and mentor at Innovation Guelph. “I am confident that Tariq has the tenacity, entrepreneurship and expertise to continue pushing boundaries for the continued success of his business.”

andrewThere is no denying Andrew Eade’s passion for his craft. With 13 years of industry experience, Eade cooked his way through some of Toronto’s most notable kitchens, including Splendido, Scaramouche and Auberge du Pommier, before landing at Pusateri’s Fine Foods. Eade’s passion and drive became evident early in his career. While attending George Brown College for culinary management, the young chef founded and successfully ran his own boutique catering company. During his time at George Brown, he also co-founded the college’s Tastes of Tomorrow guest-speaker series. In his current position as chef de cuisine, Eade manages a staff of 60, heading up Pusateri’s food production facility which supplies retail locations — including the company’s new Saks Food Halls. In 2015, Eade placed first at the Grocery Innovations Canada Show and won Nella Cucina’s Discovered Culinary Competition. The ambitious chef also set his sights on developing 50 new products for Pusateri’s, a goal he exceeded, creating items such as Sriracha peanuts, Thai coconut cauliflower soup and 15-hour slow-smoked St. Louis ribs. “Andrew fosters the passion for food in the food industry,” says Shannon Shorter, kitchen manager for Pusateri’s. “He constantly sets goals and exceeds them.” Eade eagerly shares his wealth of knowledge with others, whether through mentoring culinary students or scouting second-hand stores for cookbooks to stock Pusateri’s lunchroom shelves.

maribethMaribeth McKey has made a name for herself organizing and overseeing one of the biggest days in her clients’ lives. As the catering manager at Jordan, Ont.’s Inn on the Twenty, McKey is responsible for running special events — including weddings and corporate events — and the inn’s fine-dining restaurant. McKey got her start in the industry as a teenager, spending her summers as a banquet server at Fairmont hotel properties, inspiring her to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. She first joined the Inn on the Twenty as a seasonal worker while attending Brock University. “Maribeth rapidly grew to be so indispensable that she was made a junior manager within two years,” recalls Helen Young, owner of the Inn on the Twenty. Event bookings have nearly doubled since McKey joined the team, leaving her to oversee approximately 100 events per year. McKey’s attention to detail and unwavering commitment to customer experience have elicited great praise from the inn’s many satisfied clients. “Maribeth is a brilliant team builder who puts an exemplary level of energy into meeting the sometimes complex demands of special event and wedding clients,” says Young. “Despite her age, her innate fairness and willingness to pitch in has made her many fans among the staff.”

 

emilyEmily Meko began laying the foundation for Eat What’s Good while studying Applied Human Nutrition at the University of Guelph. During the summer months, Meko returned to her hometown of Chatham, Ont. where she began selling her vegan meal creations at a local farmers market — a project that grew steadily each year with the support of the local community. The venture was so successful that after two years she made the business her full-time summer job. Meko went on to complete the culinary skills chef-training program at George Brown College and in 2014 opened as a bricks-and-mortar operation in Chatham. Eat What’s Good offers vegan, gluten-free, whole-food meal solutions and desserts — think Thai coconut soup, black bean and edamame salad, white bean blondies and vegan cheesecakes — as well as packaged organic dry goods, cold-pressed juices and kombucha (fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks). In less than two years, Meko has expanded her business’ reach to offer Eat What’s Good products in other communities across Ontario through partnerships with local businesses. Meko’s passion and drive have not gone unnoticed by her peers. During her post-secondary career, she received the Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals’ (CAFP) Aramark Gold Plate award an unprecedented four years in a row at the regional level and once at the national level. She also won the Arlene Dickinson Award in 2014 in recognition of her entrepreneurial spirit. “Emily has exhibited unparalleled entrepreneurial skills from the start,” says Rosie Maclean, CFE, president of Maclean Food Consulting Inc. and former national president of the CAFP. “She is a dedicated, hardworking young lady and is constantly looking for new and original ideas to meet the needs of her specialized market.”

bennHe may have a reputable last name in the culinary community (his father is the executive chef at Toronto’s fine-dining mainstay, Scaramouche), but Benn Froggett is making a name for himself in the front-of-the-house. The University of Guelph Hotel and Food Administration graduate began his foodservice career as a dishwasher at Scaramouche in 2010, before working his way up to increasingly responsible roles such as server assistant, host, server and maître d’. More recently, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level-three holder became part of a new culinary venture, The Glen Tavern, in Georgetown, Ont. with partners Keith Froggett and Carl Korte in late 2015. Since then, he has taken charge of all front-of-house operations, motivating staff, training employees — even bridging the pay gap between back- and front-of -house. “Like his father, Benn is slow and steady, great with people and sharp as a tack,” says Bruce McAdams, assistant professor at the University of Guelph, and co-chair of the Top 30 Under 30 selection committee. In his role as host and general manager, Froggett has developed a comprehensive wine, beer and cocktail list that ranges from classics such as the Whiskey Smash to Cave Spring Riesling from Niagara. The restaurant has been praised as an immediate success by partner Carl Korte. “This, in no small part, has been due to Benn’s diligence and hard work. Most importantly, he has shown a great ability to develop guest relationships and loyalty, a key ingredient in the success of any restaurant.”

 

Volume 49, Number 3

Written By: Jackie Sloat-Spencer, Danielle Schalk

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