At Durham College (DC), it isn't just the love of food that inspires teaching and motivates learning – it's respect. "Sustainability and the importance of the field-to-fork concept is infused in everything we do; it's in our DNA," says associate dean Tony Doyle of DC's Centre for Food (CFF).
The building, formally titled the W. Galen Weston Centre for Food, has all the right ingredients for producing graduates with the skills needed to meet contemporary demand for culinary professionals proficient in working with fresh, local and sustainably grown foods: extensive growing facilities, state-of-the-art kitchens and a high-end teaching-inspired restaurant where, in addition to learning under seasoned chefs, students have regular access to mentorship provided by celebrity chef and CFF ambassador Jamie Kennedy.
Even the construction of the CFF reflects the sustainability ethos, which is why the CFF has earned many environmental accolades. Features include a glass curtain wall to maximize natural light, a two-storey living wall complete with fresh herbs at ground level, a comprehensive recycling and composting program, and the highest standards of water stewardship and energy conservation.
The facilities at Durham College's W. Galen Weston Centre for Food include extensive growing facilities, state-of-the-art kitchens and a high-end teaching-inspired restaurant, allowing students to work with fresh, local and sustainably grown foods. (Credit: SUPPLIED)
Students are involved in all aspects of the food cycle wherever and whenever possible, regardless of their discipline. This includes inviting horticulture and hospitality students into the kitchens and restaurant, and having the culinary students understand the complexity and importance of growing operations. "The goal is to produce well-rounded graduates," says Mr. Doyle. "These graduates have a different lens; they understand sustainability and the importance of the food cycle, which makes them very much in demand."
Both students and the community benefit from the college's extensive growing facilities, says bistro general manager Kelly O'Brien. "Some people talk about the 100-mile diet, here at the CFF, we have the 100-foot diet – fresh produce can be picked in the morning and appear on plates in the restaurant that night." The gardens flourished with more than 50 types of produce last year, and the school is experimenting with new varieties to add to the menu. The hard work is paying off. Bistro '67, the college's high-end restaurant, received a coveted Feast ON designation from the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance for demonstrating that at least 25 per cent of its food and beverage products are from Ontario, and it was also named a 3-Star Green Certified Restaurant by the Green Restaurant Association.
Sustainability in an age of scarcity is important in all aspects of life, but when it comes to food, it is sacred. "Everything we do here is about why food matters, where it comes from and how precious it is," says Mr. Doyle. Students appreciate the lesson, the community and environment benefit from the results.
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