Stratford Chefs School has helped set the standard of excellence for Canadian culinary training, producing top chefs now working in renowned kitchens all over the world.
It also welcomes local cooking fans wanting to to learn a thing or two about getting creative in the kitchen.
As a foodie and journalist working in the Festival City, I had the pleasure of attending an Open Kitchen cooking class taught by chef Eli Silverthorne. Although Silverthorne is known as a strong advocate for local and Canadian cuisine, the class was inspired by Mexican cuisine.
A cinco de mayo treat, the class was insightful, challenging, and rewarding. Recipes included chicken tortilla soup, fresh chips with black bean salsa and guacamole, carne asada with zucchini and churros with chocolate sauce for dessert.
Access to this type of world-class training is a treat in itself for locals.
Stratford Chefs School has been producing world culinary experts since 1982. The not-for-profit college, at 184 Ontario Street, is best known for its hands-on training. Over 39 years, the school has graduated more than 800 students — many have become pioneers in Stratford's culinary scene.
“We prepare exceptional cuisine that is above the standard of anywhere in southwestern Ontario,” said Silverthorne.
The class was divided into groups, each responsible for understanding and preparing a specific dish. The class had a thorough overview of how to prepare each dish. Silverthorne instructed us on how to prepare each dish and off we went.
A distinction level graduate from the Chefs School, and now a core instructor, Silverthorne knew just when to lend a helping hand. Attentive and full of insight, Silverthorne made the entire cooking process less daunting. Helpful tips were provided throughout the three hour class and before I knew it, I felt less like a deer in headlights and more like a professional cook.
I left with a full tummy and new found skills.
Whether you are hoping to grasp essential cooking techniques or learn a new cuisine, the school has a wide range of classes.
Open Kitchen favourites include sourdough breads, inspired by India and Thailand.
“We see all different kinds of cuisines here at the school but our bread and butter is French fine dining,” he said.
No prerequisites are required for the class, just a good attitude, he said.
Stratford Chefs School has helped set the standard of excellence for Canadian culinary training. For passionate cooks looking to shift their love for culinary art into a full-time career, the school offers a 32-week professional apprenticeship program.
“This culinary school is a world of difference from any of institution. The focus of the program is completely different. We are very focused and only offer one program to our apprenticeship students,” said Silverthorne.
The aim is produce the cream of the crop.
With class sizes capped at 14 students, the aspiring chefs receive an immersive and hands-on experience. Students learn a wide range of cooking styles from numerous chefs.
The competitive and condensed program is designed to prepare students for Red Seal Certification. “We teach through different methodologies so by the time the program is done the students don’t necessarily need to look at a recipe. Students should be able to look into their fridge and know what to do without consulting a recipe."