By Myriah Saulnier
Culinary students’ hard work is being recognized with more than $10,000 raised for a new bursary that will go to support them. The School of Hospitality and Tourism partnered with Les Toques Blanches Association to launch the first annual Toques Blanches culinary bursary fundraiser at Restaurant International, which allowed them to work alongside professional chefs in the community.
The fundraiser was a dinner and auction on March 27, where 80 participants came to spend their money in honour of helping culinary students through school. Dinner was prepared by second-year culinary students in conjunction with four executive chefs from Les Toques Blanches Ottawa.
“This is a great networking opportunity,” said Brittany Maika, the chef of the day who got to work exclusively with the four chefs to come up with the menu for the evening.
Les Toques Blanches is a worldwide formal organization whose goal is to improve the industry through training and education. According to the president of Les Toques Blanches Ottawa, Kenton Leier, their purpose is “to create links of friendship and mutual understanding among culinary professionals.”
“A big part of our mission is to support young chefs and give back to the community,” said Leier. “We want to help them with their education.”
Les Toques Blanches Ottawa sent Chef Cory Haskins from the Rideau Club, Chef John Morris from the National Arts Centre, Chef Mike Moffat from Beckta Dining and Wine, and Chef Joe Calabro from Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana to help bring crowds in for the bursary dinner.
School of Hospitality and Tourism dean Michel Savard, who will be retiring in June, gave a speech about the importance of helping students in school. He pointed out that college students are under immense pressure and need funds for tuition, textbooks, culinary uniforms as well as rent and other financial needs outside of school. Bursaries have become more important than ever.
“The significance of all these pressures is there are more mental health issues and the financial reality of getting through school is often a big part of it,” he said. “Through events like this, the outcome for life and success is amazing. Financial support for completion is key.”
Throughout the evening, 13 silent auction items and eight live auction items were sold. A more unique fundraising idea had the first-year culinary students wear chef hats with gift certificates hiding underneath, ranging in value from $25 to $50. There were 22 hats with all of the proceeds going towards the bursary.
Culinary professor Mario Ramsay said he was pleased to hear there would be another bursary for the culinary department. He recognizes his students are dedicating their lives to do well in school and the long hours can be difficult.
“They need more motivation, they work so hard,” said Ramsay. “As a chef, you have to make sure you have a successor when you are gone. We’re doing this to help the students but also because this bursary encourages new people to come to school and learn.”
“Once we do this bursary, it’s here forever,” he said.
It is highly likely that the bursary will be split up because of how much money was raised, according to first-year culinary student Synthia Karigey. This would allow five or more different students to reap the profits.
Second-year culinary student Tom Decosson said culinary students are “very hard working and take on a lot of tough hours,” while sometimes going through “physical and mental strain.”
“Working a part-time job as well as having these hours in school is really tough,” he said. “We’re deserving of this bursary.”