October General Meeting: The Stratford Chef’s School: Then and Now


Eleanor Kane

Eleanor had distributed pamphlets describing the work of the Stratford Chef’s School prior to the meeting. After thanking Pat for the opportunity to present, she spoke of the dearth of really good eateries in Stratford from the origins of the Theatre in 1956 to 1977, such that most patrons elected to dine in other cities. In 1977, Joe Mandel launched the Church Restaurant, Jim Morris opened Rundles and Eleanor Kane and Marion Isherwood started a tearoom, the Old Prune. All three ventures had difficulty staffing their restaurants, due to a lack of trained chefs.

A meeting of minds and means occurred when John Evans introduced Aubrey Hagar of Conestoga College who shared a vision of developing the Hospitality Program of the college to aim higher to produce highly qualified chefs. The Stratford Chef’s School was launched in 1983 with independent status so that they could extend the semester from 12 weeks to 16 weeks. It distinguished itself from other college programs by becoming restaurant-focused rather than institutional (cafeterias, hospitals) or catering. Their three-star kitchens featured classical cooking and deviated from traditional classrooms of watching a Master Chef prepare a dish to ‘learn to do by doing’. The school grew from 14 students in 1983 to 25 in 1985 and currently stands at 70 students per year. The first graduating class of 1985 included such Stratford names as Ruth Klassen, Breen Bently, and Terry Manzo.

They were able to obtain charitable status, which helped with fund-raising to support the additional 4 weeks of learning. These fund-raisers tended to be held in a top Toronto restaurant and attended by an exuberant crowd of food and wine lovers, based on the cuisine of Georges August Escoffier, the father of French cooking. In 2011, the fund-raising came home to Stratford in the form of Long Table Dinners, Strawberry Fair (at Knox Presbyterian Church) and featured silent auctions.

Starting in the mid-1990’s rules concerning charitable status changed and the Advisory Board morphed into the Governance Committee. At the time of her retirement in 2013 and Jim Morris’s retirement in 2014, the capital fund stood at $140,000. The future of the school was at a crossroads and a dedicated facility was required. The Board included Nigel Howard, Tim Leonard, David Stones, Ryan Donovan and Kathy Vassilakos.

The success of the Long Table Dinners can be measured in part by attendance; in the first year 50% of attendees came from Stratford, and this year 90% were local, suggesting that Stratford ‘owns’ the Chefs School. The current highly visable location on Ontario St contributes to integrating the school more firmly into the community. Holding the graduation ceremonies at the Stratford Festival links these two important venues and contributes to making the school truly ’Stratford’. In addition, cooking classes open to the public have aided in integrating the school. This location offers a level 1 kitchen dedicated to pastry making and a level 2 kitchen that is open to the dining room. While the school is carrying significant debt related to the creation of this facility, a positive factor was that it enabled the school to store their treasure-trove of china, flatware and glassware to suit any menu in one convenient locale.

The school has featured many guest chefs including Karl Heinrich of Richmond Station, Ryan Donovan, Frances Latham of Latham and Smith, and alumni such as Francisco Alejandro (Class of ’01). Gabrielle Hamilton serves as a Gastronomic Writer in Residence to help students produce blogs and other writing. Andrew George introduced aboriginal cooking, featuring foods harvested in season and cooking camps for kids.

The students bring iPads to school at the start of the semester, which are loaded with calanders and all of the recipes they will require.

Second year students prepare SCS dinners open to the public, which have proven to be very popular and require early reservations to assure a seat.

Bev Symons thanked Eleanor for her interesting story of the origins and growth of the Chef’s School, and announced that the honorarium had been directed to the Scholarship Fund.

Highlights from CFUW-Stratford Club Meet and Greet!

Welcome: The Meeting was called to order at 7:32 p.m. by Membership Chair and Acting President Anne Carbert, who welcomed returning members, guests, and visitors. She then acknowledged that the land we occupy was land formerly used by various tribes of natives, including the Wendat, Chippewa and Anishinaabe. After a brief overview of the events of the evening, she introduced Mary Jane Amey, Past President and current chair of the Scholarship committee.

Award of Scholarships: Mary Jane reminded the audience that the Scholarship Fund is a registered charity that provides tax receipts for donations. CFUW provides scholarships to graduating students at the three high schools in Stratford and three additional scholarships to mature students who are returning to school. Two mature students were presented with scholarships; Aaron Lloyd, who graduated from Seaforth High School, trained and worked as a Developmental Care Worker, and had two children before upgrading her math at Conestoga College.  Dawnelle Streicher graduated from Listowel District High School as an Ontario Scholar, and decided to work for a few years before upgrading her chemistry and math to be admitted in to the Nursing Program at Conestoga College. Both were presented with their awards amidst applause.

Dawnella Streicher and Aaron Lloyd: Recipients of the Mature Student Scholarship Award

Fundraising Committee: Speaking on behalf of the fund-raising committee, of which she is also a member, Mary Jane briefly outlined the three projects for this year

  • The quilt made by the Quilting group will be raffled at our next meeting in October. Tickets are still available from Lois Battle.
  • The Art Series will be held on three successive Fridays in October; the 13th, the 20th and the 27th. Tickets are available at Blowes Stationary and at The Gallery, Stratford or call 519-271-2606 or 519-271-2353.
  • A Mystery Fundraiser is scheduled for April 2018. Details to follow.

She asked the members of the quilters group and then members of the fundraising committee to stand to be recognized. Mary Jane recognized the success of member Carol Rankmore in the publication of her book “Polio Child: My Life from a Children’s Hospital to Post-Polio Syndrome” It is available at the Stratford Public Library for those interested. She concluded by thanking Brenda Herman form Avondale United Church for allowing us to meet in the newly renovated church.

Introduction of CFUW: Anne resumed the podium to provide guests and new members an outline of the benefits of membership in CFUW. We are part of an international, national, provincial and local organization committed to the education of women and girls and to ensure their equal rights in career, law and in having their voice heard. We offer

  • Interesting speakers at Monthly meetings
  • Fun Interest groups for books, cooking, bridge, crafts, gallery tours, etc.
  • Display at meetings to keep members informed of events at the local, provincial, national and international level
  • Opportunity to engage in advocacy to improve our city, our country
  • Contribute to scholarship of local women and girls
  • Discount on rail travel from ViaRail

Information on the above is available on our website, FaceBook and Twitter. As Membership Chair, Anne has made a goal of increasing our membership to 100 women by our 100th anniversary in January 2019.

Introduction of the Executive Committee: Anne asked the members of the Executive to rise to be recognized before asking Pat Reavy, Program Chair to take the floor.

Introduction of the 2017-18 Theme: Pat spoke of the theme for this year’s speaker series: Canada at 150+. This year’s speakers will focus on the history of Canada, its indigenous peoples, and the role of women in shaping Canada to date. She informed us that the November meeting will be held at the Perth County Archives, followed by a tour of the Stratford-Perth Museum – cost is $6 per person if a non-member of the Gallery and Museum.

Interest Groups: Jane Cook, Interest Group Coordinator, welcomed guests and members and invited them to step out of their comfort zone to try a new group or a new skill. She found that strong bonds and friendships grew from the camaraderie of group events, making it an excellent way to become part of Stratford for newcomers and to extend acquaintances among established members. The book clubs have been re-numbered as Book clubs 1 and 2 no longer exist, such that clubs 3, 4, and 5 are now numbered 1, 2, and 3. She concluded by thanking group leaders for their efforts and expertise.

Advocacy: Chair of the Advocacy Committee, Louise McColl spoke briefly about the work of this standing committee of CFUW. The committee meets monthly. As shown in our displays, the committee has been advocating for improved train transportation to Stratford; issues related to our membership in Graduate Women International (GWI); reduction of the use of bottled water at city events; and is currently a partner in a joint venture with Zonta and Amnesty International to showcase an indigenous film at the Queen of the Square on November 29th 2017. Cash donations are gratefully accepted. The Advocacy committee welcomes new members and new ideas.

Introduction of the Speaker: Pat Reavy introduced Carol Huband as this evening’s speaker. She is well-qualified to initiate the series as she is a retired teacher with a passion for history, indigenous peoples and genealogy. Carol was instrumental in researching the histories of many homes in Stratford and in establishing the plaques that recognize the original owners of the home. These hugely popular plaques offer those who stroll about Stratford a fascinating glimpse into the past. She also is involved in Heritage Weekend events that recognize Stratford’s Legacy. In particular, her investigations highlighted the importance of the Annie MacPherson house on Avon St as the major dispersement centre for the British Home Children in the early years of the last century. She was key in having Stratford recognized as a Railway City in 2016 and since 2015, is the President of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario- Stratford-Perth Branch.

Carol Huband, President of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario- Stratford-Perth Branch

Carol Huband

Carol Huband, President of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario- Stratford-Perth Branch began a well-illustrated presentation with a historical map illustrating the territories of various tribes of Indigenous peoples prior to the arrival of Europeans. The area of Stratford was occupied by the Neutral tribes, a peaceable people related to the Wendat, and were a matrilineal society that disappeared by 1653, being replaced by the Ashinaabe tribe. She then jumped ahead to 1832 to the arrival of the first Europeans, William and Mrs. Sergeant, who built a hotel/inn/tavern at the intersection of Mornington and Huron streets. She went on to tell fascinating details of Stratford’s first families, their residences, and their businesses including the Junction Hotel run by Annie Alcott, the medical practice of Dr. Daisy Macklin, Lucy Cartwright’s famed Meribah Mineral Springs and the Annie Macpherson house for British Home Children on Avon St.

Ms Huband also provided anecdotes concerning the biggest businesses in Stratford. First, the arrival of the railroad companies arrived in Stratford in 1856 the Grand Trunk (GTR) and the Buffalo and Lake Huron (BLHR). In the late 1860’s, Toronto ordered GTR to vacate their Toronto repair shops. Herbert Roberts was selected to locate a new site for the repairs. As he traveled through southern Ontario searching for the perfect locale, he arrived in Stratford. Mayor T. M. Daly invited him to dinner, where he met Mayor Daly’s lovely daughter, and fell instantly in love. He made the decision to locate the shops in Stratford bringing in 100 employees, and 400 families. Second, the furniture industry was shaken when the Chesterfield Furniture Workers, led by a group of women, protested wages and working conditions by going on strike. The army was called in to quell the strike, but the workers prevailed. Thus began a period of significant growth and prosperity that carried the town for the next 90 years

CFUW-Stratford Club Appeals for Ban on Sale of Bottled Water at Municipal Facilities and Events

Here are CFUW Stratford Advocacy Committee members at City Hall today after Bev Symons (centre) presented our report to the Infrastructure, Transportation and Safety Committee of City Council and appealed for the City to ban sale of bottled water at municipal facilities and events. The Committee referred the issue to staff for a report on how such a measure would be implemented with a staff member noting (as Bev did too) that it’s been done in other municipalities. We’ll be watching for next steps!

CFUW Stratford Advocacy Committee members at Stratford City Hall : Sheila Clarke, Bev Symons and Mary Jane Amey

Success Strategies from Women in STEM

Earlier in her career, when Peggy Pritchard was teaching and advising at the post-secondary level, female science students would often come to her with questions about their futures: Was there really a place for women in scientific careers? How do they get a foot in the door? Pritchard suggested they ask professionals working in the field to become informal mentors.

“They’d say ‘I can’t approach those people — why would they talk to me?’” says Pritchard, a learning and curriculum support librarian at U of G’s McLaughlin Library for the past eight years. “So, I decided that if my students didn’t feel they could reach out to the experts, I could bring the experts to them. I’d write a book, a kind of portable mentor.”

She wrote three chapters and persuaded others to contribute as well. The book, Success Strategies for Women in Science, was published in 2006 and included material from some 350 women. Ten years later, Pritchard completely revised the book, including the title, now Success Strategies from Women in STEM, to better reflect the book’s content.

Part of Pritchard’s role at U of G is to work collaboratively with faculty colleagues, educational developers, and writing and learning specialists to support undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She has presented seminars and facilitated workshops for women in STEM at all academic levels at institutions around the world.

Much has changed in the past decade, she says. “Government agencies are very interested in supporting women in STEM. They recognize that if you have qualified women who leave STEM work, you have lost capacity, so they’ve developed strategies to recruit and retain women.” Today, many organizations have flexible work programs for women with children and formal mentorship programs to develop female scientists in an intentional way.

In the book Pritchard covers topics related to careers in STEM fields, including leadership, time management, networking and negotiation. She also identifies strategies to help improve career success, along with inspiring stories from female scientists in STEM fields.

Despite the improvements for women in STEM, Pritchard says there are still many challenges, particularly in developing countries where women must often move abroad to work in STEM careers. She saw that first-hand when she was recently invited to present a workshop in Egypt at the world-famous Library of Alexandria, where she met women from 15 countries who were passionate about STEM careers.

In some countries, women are simply not permitted to work in particular fields. Others are not allowed to drive, and for some it’s difficult for a married woman or mother to have a career. Access to research can also be a challenge: about 70 per cent of the universities in developing countries can afford one or two journal subscriptions, according to Pritchard. On the other hand, U of G subscribes to 63,000.

Pritchard says it is very satisfying to know her book has inspired women across the globe. One Brazilian student told Pritchard Success Strategies from Women in STEM is always on her desk.