Official Liaison College Blog

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A Culinary Journey

A career path can often be a bumpy and winding road filled with potholes of diversion and traffic jams of a busy life.  Meet Nadine Day:  mother, wife, daughter, entrepreneur, author and, ultimately, foodie.  And coincidentally or not, it was her father’s actual journey down a famous trail that lead her to where she is today.


Nadine is a graduate of Applied Human Sciences majoring in Nutrition and completed her  university educational experience as an intern at a hospital.  But not long after completing her family (a robust group of entrepreneurs of immigrant roots), with her mother at the helm, opened a small gardening boutique.  Nadine set out to add a café to the little shop and started with a 30 seat cozy outlet featuring healthy and nutritional foods.  Nadine’s father, also a true entrepreneur, meanwhile was involved in many different projects.


In 2002 Nadine decided to take her love of cooking and baking to a more professional level and enrolled with Liaison College.  To her surprise, when she started classes, her Aunt was also enrolled in the same program.  The interesting twists on this path would continue.


While Nadine attended Culinary Arts training, she also worked part time for the City of Toronto in the “Eat Healthy” program.  Nadine was responsible for recipe development and nutritional counselling to a program that aimed to entice Torontonians to make healthy eating choices and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  But it was also during this time that Nadine realized that Chef Instructor, Simon Day, was a kindred spirit and when she completed her training program they started a romantic relationship.  They married a year later.


Nadine was working at what seemed to be her dream job at the flagship Loblaw Headquarters in Mississauga.  Her role was product development in the ground-breaking Blue Menu division where Loblaw’s was making convenience foods healthy, nutritional and most of all tasty.  Nadine thrived at this position.  Maternity leave intervened and upon her return Nadine worked as a dietician for the same firm.  Using all of her combined skills and knowledge was extremely rewarding.  As one of 15 in her department, Nadine worked with food all day long and relied on her food science meets culinary arts to create wonderful dishes that we enjoy at home today.  As well she was instrumental in the Guiding Stars program where Loblaw used algorithms to analyse the nutritional density of foods.


But Nadine’s restless spirit and foodie enthusiasm has kept her busy on the side.  She has developed recipes for Heart and Stroke and was able to do so from home while tending her young family.  Nadine wrote two cookbooks published by Robert Rose around healthy baby food as well as another publication for Health Canada around native cookery.  Since her favourite time is family time at the dinner table, she is busy contemplating her next book on family cooking and family gatherings.


Today Nadine is the operator and proprietor of Hacienda Sarria.  The story about this leads us back to her father’s journey, along with her brother, on the famous El Camino trail in Spain.  While trekking on the legendary pass through Spain, Nadine’s father was overcome with fatigue.  He stopped in a small village to rest a while and even considered abandoning the rest of the journey.  Suddenly a local resident appeared from her house and, noticing his discomfort, ushered him inside to ease his pain.  She fed them, comforted them, encouraged them and showed an unbelievable and improbable hospitality.  Nadine’s father would never forget this experience.


Upon his return to Canada he set out on a mission to re-create the feeling of overwhelming peace and satisfaction that he felt in Sarria.  And so Hacienda Sarria was born.

Out of a defunct and abandoned factory in Waterloo Ontario, Nadine’s father painstakingly recreated the ambience and character from the place in Sarria where hospitality was utterly genuine.  The idea was to live in this paradise, but it was soon apparent that this mansion of vision was an ideal banquet centre.  And the ever-present entrepreneurial spirit took over.


Medieval, romantic and charming the Hacienda Sarria is breathtaking.  Mere photographs cannot justify the magnitude of the beautifully manicured lawns, the imposing iron doorways, the lavish tile flooring and other details of the fixtures.  And here, in this magical place, Nadine hosts corporate events, banquets and, the specialty, weddings.  Starting only a few years ago, Nadine has more than tripled the wedding bookings and now employs two full time wedding planners.  In her community spirit, Nadine also sponsors the Nutrition Learning program in the Waterloo Region. 


When paths intersect and cross and meet, wonderful things can happen.  Nadine’s career journey is definitely not over.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sippin at the Dock of the Bay III

For the past four years we have been focused on an annual event to raise funds for the Liaison College Youth Success Fund.  The project was born after Rudy Florio, President of Liaison College, attended a Gang Exit Strategy Graduation at the John Howard Society (JHS) in Hamilton, ON.  The young people who were overcoming and handling extreme barriers and obstacles in their relatively short lives made a huge impact on Rudy Florio and he approached David Lane to find out what could be done to help give the community's youth a hand up.  And so the Liaison College Youth Success Fund was created.

The JHS offers many different community programs for youth, but their most successful includes an outreach through high schools and the "circle program" where teens can meet with peers and an advocate from the JHS to talk about issues that are meaningful to them.  It's a self directed meeting program that is voluntary and available to anyone that chooses to attend.  There is no judgement, no criticism, no right or wrong - it's a safe place to come and share thoughts and ideas and what's on your mind. 
It was through this venue that the first Liaison Youth Success Fund recipient was chosen.  And two more quickly followed.

Now, four years later, there are several students receiving annual scholarship funding through the Liaison Youth Success Fund and some will even be graduating next year with a degree or diploma.  The effects of their success will be felt throughout our community and will continue to ripple for years to come. 
For the third year in a row we have held the event at the Macassa Bay Yacht Club in Hamilton - hence the "Sippin at the Dock of the Bay" theme.  In 2012 and 2013 the event was modified slightly to accommodate Mother Nature (both years she created a mini monsoon for us to work around!).  This year (having moved the date of the event one week later than in the past) we were blessed with a lovely, sunny, warm day and evening.  Perfect for sippin'!
Our goal for this year was $30K - a bit aggressive and a substantial increase from the first year.  But by all accounts very doable with the right chemistry:  sponsors, prizes for auctions, ticket sales and attendance.  We exceeded the goal!
There are so many people, companies, groups and friends to thank.  And so we do - THANK YOU!

Monday, April 28, 2014

As Sure As i Can Be - A Graduate Success Story

Sandra Bruton has a passion.  Actually, she has several passions and they all intertwine beautifully and deliciously in her healthy food venture:  Sure Chef

It started in high school.  Sandra wanted to enhance her passion for cookery – a passion, by the way, that she developed from her mother, a Chef (and founder of Sure Chefs).  Sandra enrolled for the culinary program at Liaison College in Barrie.  Because the classes at Liaison College are half days, Sandra was able to complete her high school diploma in the afternoons while studying culinary arts in the mornings.  Then, after school, she would dash to her co-op job as a dishwasher.  Her life was busy and very much leading her on a lifelong journey.

At this point, Sandra’s culinary career goal was to bake and specialize in the pastry arts.  But her body didn’t agree with that at all; she was over-sugared and under-weight and generally unhealthy (which caused her to also be unhappy).  It wasn’t long before Sandra took another turn in the culinary road.  The solution to her career and health issues was clear:  study nutrition.  Which she did (at the Canadian School of Nutrition) and that lead to a new appreciation of food and chemicals and how the body processes what we feed it.  

After high school, Sandra moved to Egypt where her mom. brother and step father had moved (he’s an engineer that works abroad a lot).  Sandra worked in her mom’s catering business while her brother attended an elite private school.  The new outlook for nutrition opened her eyes in many ways.  She was overwhelmed by the obesity and health issues around the kids at her brother’s school; an elite school with world class facilities and the kids were lethargic and over-weight.  Her newfound passion for nutrition combined with her existing passion for cooking started another passion:  helping people learn about what they eat and how to prepare it.  The first class of Sure Chefs was established as a summer camp and kids learned about healthy choices and how to prepare the foods to their liking to stimulate the craving for healthy options that provided energy and nutrients to growing bodies.  The feedback was outstanding.  Sandra had found her ultimate passion!

Unfortunately the revolution in Egypt ended the journey and Sandra ultimately moved again to join family in Argentina.  It was here that she started the “Mom and Kids Picky Eater” program.  Where kids would take healthy food and make it three ways – writing down every recipe and noting which method they liked best.  By the end of the classes, each student completed the program with a complete cookbook of recipes that they had written.  This outcome reinforced Sandra’s belief that kids will eat food that they have prepared and if it is food they like it’s even better.

Now back in Canada Sandra has continued her journey of passion.  She is presently hosting Junior Sure Chef classes at Liaison College in Etobicoke with great success.  She is the host of a community TV show featuring her ideas on super foods, kids, cooking and healthy eating/living.  But her passion has spurred her on to really make a difference:  Sandra is writing a grant proposal for a Sure Chef food truck.  The food truck would enable her to go to all schools in Ontario and teach kids how to make good food taste great and choose a healthy menu.  With her food truck she could train 120 kids per day and do an entire school in a week.  She would focus on allergies and other dietary concerns all the while showing kids how easy it is to make healthy food choices and prepare for themselves.  In addition she would like to start a series of classes for Mom’s who are plagued with the lunch making phobia – we all know someone who dreads the school year only because of the chore of making lunches (that don’t get eaten if they are not palatable).  There’s also the Teen Series where teens will focus on body issues (even skin conditions can be helped with diet) and self-esteem while loving food and its preparation.  That’s just for starters.  Her Facebook page “Sure Chefs” is chock full of helpful ideas and recipes, too.

This lovely, bright-eyed young lady is passionate about her craft and wants to share it.  Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious; that’s for Sure.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Chef of the Day in Durham

Francis is a mature student and he has a passion for cooking.

Recently it was his turn to execute a "Chef of the Day" luncheon as part of his Level II practicum.  Armed with great ideas and a theme for his luncheon, he set out to operate his mock restaurant in earnest.

It's one thing to prepare foods using recipes and all the time you need, and it's entirely something else to create 3 courses under the pressure of a live customer with time constraints.  That's a whole new kettle of fish!

And that's exactly what Frances chose for his luncheon menu - traditional fish and chips.

Using a specified budget, he created the menu to the penny.  Ten of his family members reserved their table and the pressure was on!
The recipes were tested and re-tested to perfect the dishes.  When the luncheon date finally arrived, they were as ready as they could be.  Chatting with some of the guests that day, there was a definite race between the tartar sauce and the dessert as to which was the home run.  In all, one diner exclaimed that it was "the best fish and chips I've ever had period".  Now that's what the Chef wants to hear!
Dessert - "to die for" Bread Pudding

Soupe du Jour
Try the Dessert for yourself - apparently it's the Bailey's Ice Cream and the homemade bread that kick this one up a notch:

Portions:              24 Metric

500gr melted butter
  • 674gr water
  • 40gr Yeast instant
  • 1100gr flour
  • 26gr salt
  • 40gr sugar
  • 54gr non-fat milk
  • 40gr shortening
  • Yields 2000gr
  • 1000gr eggs
  • 2.5L milk
  • 500gr sugar
  • 4ml salt
  • 30ml vanilla
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 2tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup diced apricots
  • ½ cup diced raisins


1.       Put the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla in a bowl mix until combined then slowly add the milk in while you do that keep stirring until all mixed in and looks like custard then add the cinnamon, nutmeg

2.       Then make sure the melted butter is poured over the diced bread then put the diced raisins, apricots in with the bread that’s in the pan. Then pour the custard over the bread put in the refrigerator for 1 hour until bread has soaked up the custard

3.       Then put the pan with the bread in a larger pan fill with 1inch of water and bake at 325f for hour or until set.

4.       While that is being made you make a apricot, raisin, cranberry sauce for the bottom for the bread and butter pudding sits on for the glace you melt the jar of apricot marmalade in the microwave then put it on the stove for about 5 to 10 minutes until reduced to a glace.  


Makes:                 2.88L

  • 908gr milk
  • 908gr heavy cream
  • 2 vanilla bean
  • 396gr sugar
  • 56gr corn syrup
  • 2gr salt
  • 30 egg yolks
  • 6oz baileys



1.       Combine the milk, cream, vanilla, bean pod and seeds, half of the sugar, syrup, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, 7 to 10 minutes

2.       Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover, and steep for 5 minutes.

3.       Meanwhile, blend the egg yolks with the remaining sugar.

4.       Remove the vanilla bean pod and return the milk mixture to a simmer.

5.       Temper one third of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.

6.       Add the tempered egg mixture to the remaining hot liquid in the saucepan, stirring constantly over medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 3 to 5 minutes.

7.       Strain the ice cream base into a metal container in an ice bath. Stir occasionally, until it reaches below  40F/4C, about 1 hour

8.       Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours.

9.       Process the base in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.

10.   Pack the ice cream in storage containers or molds as desired, and freeze for several hours. Or overnight before serving.  


Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Life of Pie - Thornbury Bakery Cafe -

The Story of Trish Smith - Liaison College Graduate

Meet Trish Smith, born in Orillia and raised in Whitby, ON. On graduating she entered the IT field and while on the job she met her future husband, Dave.  They were both successful and thrived in the IT realm travelling extensively. They ultimately moved to New Jersey, USA to accept promotions.  They had a family and the last of their three children was born in the USA.

Health issues brought them back to Canada where family support was nearby.  Trish began to visualize her next career, why not trade her lucrative but hectic IT career for time with family and doing something she loved?

Like the story of The Life of Pie – she saw possibilities in everything she envisioned and food seemed to be part of that vision.  Was it pie in the sky? Could this be her new career? She loved cooking – why not give it a try!

Trish enrolled at Liaison College in Downtown Toronto and began her culinary journey; she excelled and quickly developed her love and passion for food – especially baking.   She graduated with Honours at the top of her class and was awarded the merits and a reference book signed by her Chef Instructor, Chef Mick Elliott CCC.  It was a proud moment.

With three children growing quickly and the oldest already in high school, Trish and Dave were ready to turn the page in their next chapter of life. They decided to explore the possibility of a simpler and quieter life outside of the GTA.  It was on a weekend ski trip to Blue Mountain with her sisters, that the notion of making Georgian Bay their new home started to develop.  In August 2008 they moved to Thornbury and within a month they purchased a business. Trish and Dave became the proud owners of the Thornbury Bakery Café on Bruce Street.

The Thornbury Bakery is a local landmark and traditional in its offerings; Trish decided not to make any drastic changes right away.  She inherited many delicious and comforting recipes with the business  so, the legacy continued.  This welcoming and bustling business is a familiar place for locals and visitors alike. They come to enjoy the freshly baked goods, piping hot coffee and other tantalizing beverages along with a full breakfast and lunch menu.  They are known for their amazing homemade soups.  It’s almost impossible to resist the tempting vision reflected in the glass display case at the front counter. It’s here that Chelsea buns, decadent squares, freshly baked breads, marvellous muffins, and a host of delectable pies and cookies await you. Eyes feast on the array of bountiful and aromatic delicacies conjuring up memories of a cozy home kitchen. It’s impossible not to weaken; everyone takes home some of those old fashioned memories.

Trish values her customers and friends in the region; it’s been 5 years since she and Dave bought the business. She continues to provide a welcoming gathering place and source for delicious meals and baked goods. 

With the addition of gluten free products and a growing wholesale market, Trish is feeding her passion.  As she fondly refers to her gifted reference book from her Chef Instructor she is reminded to “keep it sexy”.  It was obvious to Trish, that her dream wasn’t just “pie in the sky” Thornbury Bakery is a dream come true!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Autumn Pop Up Dinner with Entertained Catering and Chef Alex

Lots of things can "pop up" ... but dinner?

That's a given if you speak to Chef Alex, a Liaison College grad who heads up Entertained Catering and specializes in pop up dinners (among other things).

Chef Alex caught the Liaison College "food bug" from Chef Tracy, Director and Chef instructor at Liaison College South Coast; they met at a trade show and Chef Tracy's exuberance and passion for food, especially local and fresh foods, rubbed off on Alex in a big way.   Alex found his calling and very quickly enrolled in the culinary program with a vision of exactly what he would do with his skills and knowledge.

Recently, Chef Alex sent out an invitation to his "foodie fans" enticing them to experience a pop up dinner.  Here's the invite:

|Entertained Catering is proud to present our first regional pop-up dinner at Pingle's Farm!

Our dinner will be set in the amazing atmosphere of an apple orchard in full bloom! Our meal will consist of 4 courses all created using local produce and will include a glass of local wine! Keeping in mind that our event is outside, please dress warm. If you are interested in attending please RSVP by September 24th with the number of guests. All questions and RSVPs can be sent to

|Our Menu:


Roasted pumpkin soup served with walnut pesto, fresh sage, and sea salt crisps.


Apple roasted pork served with balsamic roasted parsnips and carrots, and red wine and apple braised red cabbage.

Palate Cleanser:

Apple cider granita.


Apple caramel cheese cake crumble.


Our food sleuth, Michele, ventured out for the dinner and was not disappointed.  The ambience and food were exceptional and of course the surroundings were inspired for the season.

Nestled among the orchard in full splendour, the dinner "pops up" with a colourful presentation and a rustic vibe, the dinner is a successful event with many happy foodies.

Well done Alex - we will be watching to see where you might "pop up" next!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Battle of the Bulge

The raging war for size supremacy is well underway as Chef Steve, not to be outdone by Chef Vince, has entered his specimen in the Zucchini Showdown of 2013.  It would appear that bragging rights for super sized summer squash is not easily won or even definitive.

Since Chef Vince laid his over-sized green giant on the prep table, Chef Steve wondered aloud if his garden variety gourd was worthy.  Game on.

 The students in Brampton, however, had a twisted take on the Zucchini Wars.

These poor, helpless veggies were tormented before they met their fate.

They came to an unfortunate end in one sense.  Yet, all was not lost:

We are delighted to be the official taste testing team!
(I wish!)

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Courgette is by any other name just a Zucchini

The zucchini or courgette is a summer squash which can reach nearly a meter in length, but which is usually harvested at half that size or less. Along with certain other squashes, it belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo.  Thank you Wikipedia

I was recently introduced to a very large specimen - of Zucchini that is - home grown by Chef Vince.  Apparently this was not his biggest, but he brought it to Liaison College Barrie to share with his class.  I extended a bit of a challenge (make something delicious from this humble beast) and Chef Vince accepted without hesitation.  Mainly since the "gourd head" didn't make a great student?

So the students bid their friend adieu and considered the tasty results.
I offered a tried and true recipe from my collection for the class to try.  It's a moist and flavourful zucchini bread that can also do double duty as a muffin.  First thing in the mise en place process is to gather the ingredients.  How much zucchini did they actually have to work with?
The colossal specimen was weighed and measured.  There was a lot to work with.  Strategies began to formulate.
And then the manual labour began.
But the results were amazing!
Tempted?  Try the recipe!
Zucchini Bread Recipe
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated fresh zucchini
2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)
1              Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter two 5 by 9 inch loaf pans.
2              In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter.
3              Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and stir it in. Add the flour, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg over the batter and mix. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using.
4              Divide the batter equally between the loaf pans. Bake for 55 minutes (check for doneness at 50 minutes) or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.
Yield: Makes 2 loaves.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It's EPIC!!

That's a word in the common jargon of today's youth:  EPIC - it generally means outstanding or great.  But in the case of EPIC Burger it might mean a colossal case of food borne illness. 

Every year the "EX" attracts foodies to see what gastronomically outrageous food items will be on hand for sampling.  And this year's big ticket item is the Cronut Burger featured by EPIC Burger.

Ben Mulroney was even on site and helped to make one of these king size artery cloggers; after taking just a bite he declared it to be tasty and the leftover "buns" that he took back to the staff at his studio thought it was very good, too.

So what is a Cronut Burger??  having never had the pleasure, I have to base my analysis on other people's views:
  • a combination of croissant/donut cut in half makes up the "bun"
  • the burger is a large size cheeseburger with bacon
  • once assembled, burger gets dusted with sugar

So while some have thoroughly enjoyed their Cronut Burger experience, others, as reported last night took ill and some were even hospitalized.  Today, according to reports, the EPIC Burger stand at The Ex was closed down by health officials looking for a culprit.  The internet is all abuzz with burger badmouthing today!

Having taught the Food Safety workshops a few times, narrowing down the cause of illness may be difficult unless the micro-organisms are there to be found.  It could be something as otherwise inconspicuous as a dirty wiping cloth or utensil that was left in the warm air and allowed germs to multiply. 

Anyone who has ever had food poisoning knows that it's no fun.  Luckily it usually lasts only a day or two. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Next Celebrity Chef?

At the Liaison College Barrie graduation ceremony yesterday, the guest speaker was an alumnus of Liaison College.  I was looking forward to meeting her and getting some insights into her progress from student to Executive Chef.  What I didn't expect. but was delighted to meet, was the dynamic, energetic, friendly and passionate woman with the colourful hair with a personality bubbling with passion for her profession as a Chef.  And mentor, as it turns out.

Chef Ericka was groomed for the foodservice industry at a very young age (12) at her family home on Christian Island north of Barrie where, she tells me, she had very humble beginnings in the bush foraging for food items and creating such things as Choke Cherry jam.  Her mother, however, planted the seed for foodservice.  Her mother was the chef at the Georgian Peaks in Collingwood for years and then operated a snack bar and road house closer to home in their community.  Nowadays you will find her mom tirelessly preparing her famous meat pies (they are legendary and hard to come by).

Ericka graduated from Liaison College in 2007 or so, and since then has been working her way through local kitchens learning and perfecting her craft.  At 32 years old, she has been working in the industry for over 20 years.  Hard to believe!

Ericka coached the grads assembled by telling them that the industry was for the passionate; you get out of it what you put into it.  Ericka is living proof that hard work and dedication do pay off.  Today she is the Executive Chef at Christie's Mill - Inn & Spa - a posh resort at Port Severn - and her weekly hours in the kitchen are enhanced with endless amounts of paper that pile on her desk.  It's a 7 day a week job - speaking at the grad afforded her a much needed break.

Some fun facts about Chef Ericka:
Largest Function Ever - the G8 Summit at Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville
Best accomplishment - she has a wonderful 9 year old son
Food Philosophy - pay attention to details; be dedicated; keep it simple
What she aspires to - Celebrity Status
And when I asked her about Celebrity Chef status she simply replied:  "Google me"
I did.  Impressive.  A star that's definitely on the rise!
Thanks for making us look good, Chef Ericka!