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Fanshawe College has a wonderful two year program, "Tourism and Hospitality." Dale Dolson invited my wife and I to experience the Hotel, Food, Beverage, Culinary Management program. We asked for the opportunity to be a hands on cooks for an afternoon.

We met Chef Brian Long at 2pm. in the foyer of the beautiful dinning room, Safronís. He escorted us behind the swinging doors to his busy kitchen . We were asked to don chefís hats, white jackets, and aprons.

There were six second year students busily preparing food for forty dinner patrons. The pupils smiling faces and handshakes set us at ease.

They split us up into different work stations: I was assigned to work with Erin to slice, dice a pot of potatoes that would be transformed into a French creation, Dauphinoise. We met Erin a graduate of McMasterís Gerontology program, who loved to cook and entertain. She had recently returned home from Glasgow Scotland after serving a three month internship at the Marriott Hotel.

Ella went off to work with Blair preparing Grande Marnier cheese cakes. I never realized how hard work it is to help prepare nine full course gourmet meals for a dinning lounge.

Upon graduating from the Culinary program the students spend three years of apprenticeship working to achieve the Red Seal designation for Chefís papers. After 6000 hours the apprentices have their book signed for accreditation purposes. Jobs, Jobs, there are 1000s of career opportunities for students to enjoy in a fast paced, pressure cooker atmosphere. Hotels, restaurants. logging camps, cruise ships and off shore oil rigs. Chef Long warned that the work is hard; those who are looking for glamour will probably be disappointed.

Pascal Chambon, a Professor in the Hotel Food and Beverages divisions from the French Riviera took us on a tour of the hospitality department. He proudly showed off the demo and mixology labs that all of the students have access to. The budding bar tenders are taught to mix alcoholic drinks from bottles of wines and spirits filled with coloured water. The instructors sometimes allow the students a taste of the real thing.

Staff and students are welcome to grab a quick bite at Olive Oyles from 7.30-2.30. The culinary students daily feed hundreds of hungry appetites with a menu of coffee. bagels sandwiches, soup and salads.

At 5.30 p. m. professor Chambon escorted us into the dinning room to meet the students who would be our hosts for the evening. Ella and I were taught how to carry two plates in one hand without spilling the food. Smiles, politeness, eye contact and attention to detail are the rules of fine serving. The waiters were quizzed on their knowledge of the menu and the special dinners for the evening.

It was hard to believe that the dinning room was an extension of a 15 week college training program. At 5.45 Ella & I excused ourselves to dress for dinner. Promptly at six the doors opened to welcome the dinner guests. Some of the patrons were students enrolled in the hospitality courses: the student fees pays for nine gourmet meals at Safronís. Dining etiquette proper dress, manners are an integral part of the course of study.

The Maitre D, Jeff, escorted us to our romantic candle lit table for two Our waitress, Laurel, helped us with the menu describing the offering for the evening: Ella chose the Soup díJour, a steamy bowl of wild mushroom soup and steak Peppercorn flambe. I selected the pecan encrusted Supreme of chicken.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating: the entrees were excellent, an epicurean delight of tastes and aromas. The service was impeccable, nothing was left to chance. Of the five desert offerings we wisely chose the Grand Marnier cheese cake with fresh fruit and chocolate sauce; the taste and texture was first rate.

Remember, this wonderful dinning experience was created by a group of young students in the Hospitality Division at Fanshawe. I am never amazed at the talent and work ethic of our young people. They are super. If you want to experience a wonderful dining experience make reservations at Safronís 519 452-4433.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com