Official Liaison College Blog

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!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Food is a Family Affair

I've come to a couple of conclusions and when I share the following anecdotes with you, you may come to similar conclusions or be able to add your own to the roster of precarious (and often funny) food tales.

My father-in-law will be 96 years old in the fall.  He's lived a good, full life and is still full of life with a lot more living to do.  He's been married for 71 years to the same lovely bride and they enjoy living in their long time family home surrounded by grand children and great grand children.  Life is good.  The twinkle in his eyes is a give away to the rascal that dwells within; he's a naughty boy with a prank or two up his sleeves.  The other thing he has is a very good appetite.  He enjoys food and loves to eat.  It seems, however, that his appetite is not filled with the regular 3 squares and he is always on the look out for a snack.  Sweets are great.  So is fresh cold cuts right out of the fridge.  But his favourite go-to snack is a cheese slice or two.  The only trouble is, he peels the cheese and enjoys the tasty square.  Then he deposits the wrapper in his pants pocket or sweater pocket.  Only to be discovered on laundry day - and you can be sure that he's not the lord of laundry.  The cache of empty wrappers is a source of many conversations and many chuckles as we visualize Grampa by the fridge rummaging for cheese slices.  I thought it was particularly funny because my husband inherited his dad's knack for singles slices.  Today while I was hanging the laundry out on the line, a small square of plastic fluttered out of the pocket of his shorts.  I chased the piece as it blew gently in the breeze and to my surprise (not really) and total amusement, I see that it's a cheese wrapper.  Nicely tucked into the pockets of a pair of shorts and tossed in the wash for a good rinse.  Like father, like son.

In this next story I have to be a bit vague to protect the guilty.

I was chatting with a chef instructor the other day and we were reviewing the menu for an upcoming kids cooking camp.  I suggested that he could use produce and get a delivery from the supplier.  But he waved off that suggestion in favour of a personal shopping trip.  While my husband detests any kind of shopping and most of all for groceries, this chef seemed almost euphoric at the thought.  So I agreed that he should personally see to the shopping for the campers needs and he was delighted.  Weird?  I must have had a look on my face that said so without words and he continued to tell me that he LOVES the grocery store.  In fact, he exclaims, it's one of his most favourite things to do ever!  So much so that he volunteers to go shopping for his family.  Several times per week.  His wife will say "honey, where are you going?" and he tells her shopping for groceries.  One day, on just such an excursion, he heads out to the local grocery store only to feel that he is being followed - that ESPish feeling where you think you're being watched.  He looks around.  Nothing.  He continues to browse the aisles and the neck hairs bristle.  There is someone there!  He spins around quickly and spots a head just as it disappears around the corner of the aisle.  Honey?  Is that you?  and around peeks his wife.  Sheepish.  She thought he was having an affair.  And never for one minute thought it might be with Aisle 3.  For the love of fresh produce.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rafting in the summer - it's not what you think

Summer time is everyone doing things outdoors in great weather and taking it easy.  Or is it?  Having been around the kitchen for many years there are some concepts that don't sink in right away.  Like the raft, for example.  Some might immediately visualise Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and a lazy river.

But today I finally got the culinary meaning of  "raft".  Sure, I've heard it a thousand times, but it wasn't until today that I actually witnessed the real thing.

consommé - one of the basics in a French cuisine repertoire - requires a raft

consommé starts with a mirepoix (a finely diced combination of celery, onions and carrots) among other things including egg whites (see the recipe below from the Food Network's Emeril Lagasse)
When the ingredients start to cook they form a "raft".  The raft acts as the filter for the consommé and ends up floating to the top of the stock pot. 

when the consommé is finished you have to gently poke a hole in the raft to get to the clear, crisp consommé that is beneath

The result is a perfectly clear and filtered consommé that can be used in many aspects of the French kitchen and, when reduced and chilled produces aspic. But that's for another day.  Happy rafting.

Chicken Consomme: Basic Clarification

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2001
Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
30 min
2 quarts


  • 4 ounces lean ground beef
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced leek
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup peeled, finely chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme (stems and leaves)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon (stems and leaves)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (stems and leaves)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 8 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 8 cups chicken stock, defatted

Optional Garnishes:

  • Sour cream, for garnish
  • Chopped chives, for garnish
  • Lemon slices, for garnish
  • Toast points, for garnish
  • Diced seeded tomato and finely shredded basil leaves
  • Thinly sliced mushrooms and minced fresh parsley or chervil
  • Small, thin bread rounds topped with finely shredded Parmesan and toasted
  • Diced carrots and fresh peas
  • Finely shredded savoury crepes
  • Lettuce/chervil chiffonade
  • Shredded leeks lightly Sauteed in butter


In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground meat with the onions, leeks, celery, carrots, thyme, tarragon, parsley, garlic, and black pepper. Puree on high speed.
In a bowl, combine the egg whites with the pureed meat mixture. Stir well to blend.
Place the stock in a large pot and add the "raft" (the pureed meat-egg white mixture). Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent the raft from sticking to the bottom and sides of the pot. (Once the stock has come to a boil, do not stir again.) Reduce to a simmer and puncture a hole in the centre of the raft for the stock to circulate through and clarify. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Gently poke a hole in the raft large enough to fit a ladle. With a ladle, gently scoop out the consomme into a clean pot or bowl. Strain through a layer of cheese cloth to finish clarifying.
Serve hot with desired garnish. Alternatively, transfer consomme to a shallow bowl or roasting pan and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, covering with plastic wrap only when the consomme is cool enough that no condensation forms on the plastic. When the consomme is completely cooled, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes and divide between consomme cups. Garnish with sour cream, chopped chives, and a lemon slice and serve with toast points.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Let Them Eat Steak

There's just something about summer that evokes the smell, sizzle and taste of a BBQ steak.  In a quest to conquer the concept of  bovine BBQ bliss, I thought it best to go to the ultimate source.  A trusted source:  Chef/Butcher and former Liaison College instructor - Michael Cortese - now the proud owner and operator and chief meat maestro at Cordino's Fine Meats in Barrie.

Cordino's Fine Meats & Deli @ FaceBook

Rule number one:  find out where the meat is coming from; happy cows make for better tasting beef products.
Cordino's buys their beef from a friendly farm in Schomberg where cows are able to graze in fields and enjoy their days in the outdoors.

Rule number two:  Insist on dry aged meat (versus the wet aging process which occurs in the kryo-packages that meat is stored in upon slaughter - and left there until cut for sale)

Rule number three:  select your cut of meat with your own taste in mind and don't forget about the cheaper cuts which, when prepared properly, can be a surprisingly delicious option.
Rule Number four:  make sure your meat is dry (using a paper towel for example) before seasoning and it is recommended that you brush the meat with oil before seasoning with salt and pepper only according to your taste
Rule Number Five:  make sure your grill is hot and clean - a charcoal grill is recommended - and your meat is cooked only until desired doneness is reached; pros will use the finger method to test for doneness (pressing the meat and the firmer the more done it is) but you can always fall back on a meat thermometer until you reach "pro" status
Rule Number six:  when you pull your meat from the grill, make sure you let it rest for 2 min so that the juices (which are flowing quickly due to heat) are allowed to settle back into the flesh for full flavour impact
Enjoy your steak.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Game of Thrones for Business?

I have a new addiction; thanks to my step daughter, Sarah.  Game of Thrones.  The HBO series, now in its third season, is a medieval saga surrounding the kingdoms and their battles for control of the throne.  Just as I am reeling from the Season One finale (it's like a page turner where you can't put the book down and burn the midnight oil just to get to the end) I open my email to find a news alert from Jeffrey Gitomer (he's a sales and marketing guru who puts out email blasts of encouragement to his readership).  Today's alert caught my eye in particular because of its reference to thrones....  here's the excerpt:

Is the Sword of Damocles Hanging Over Your Head!?

Dan Heffernan, General Manager of Dale Carnegie Digital

The flatterer Damocles was once given the chance to see for himself what it was like to be a king. He tasted the exhilaration while sitting on the royal throne, until he looked up and saw a sword dangling by a string over his head. In a flash the flatterer gladly gave the seat back to its rightful owner.

To be a leader is to act, and to act is to take risks. Think about it. Is it possible to separate leading from risk-taking? Some who aspire to lead have a tough time making a decision under pressure. They blanch like Damocles when they notice the sword, responding to the natural risks of leadership by inaction, avoidance, or even reckless reaction, any one of which is likely to increase the consequences of the risk. How do you handle risk?


Monday, July 15, 2013

Chef of the Day

Many gourmet cooks aspire to the notion of business ownership.  Whether it's a B&B, fine dining establishment, organic loca-vore bistro, food truck or catering - just a few of the options that has enticed Liaison College graduates.  It all started with a chance to be Chef of the Day while in class.  Business ownership without the risk is one way that Liaison College students are introduced to the operation of serving live customers.

Students are required to create a menu, prepare the costing, the ingredient (shopping list) and execute the menu for real customers.

From the Farm is owned and operated by Cynthia Peters, a Liaison College graduate who envisioned a special place where foodies could gather to share good food and knowledge. 
With over 9,500 "likes" and followers, Gorilla Cheese is the brain child of Liaison College grad, Graham Smith. This business plan class project didn't just go viral; it went LIVE.
The 3rd mayor of Whitby, Ezra Anne, built a family home in 1836.  Today this heritage home houses the Ezra Anne's B & B owned and operated by Liaison College grad, Christine Bilas.  Christine offers accommodations, private parties, weddings and other events; she even incorporates her passion for sailing into the mix.

Taking a stab at the trendy BBQ fad is Liaison College graduate Steve Varnasidis in Cambridge ON.  Steve's venture, Q BBQ Public House , features all of the regular BBQ and smoking favourites you would expect to find.
Join us for a Chef of the Day experience and meet the future chefs coming to a neighbourhood near you!

What are you if your mantra is "Normal is Weird"

Chances are you're affiliated with Flying Monkeys Brewery in Barrie ON.  No kidding.  Check out the website - chock full of monkey business.

Craft breweries are trending world wide as brew masters showcase their hoppy skills and create the definitive beer.  A few weeks ago I was introduced to the Matador, a limited edition craft IPA from Flying Monkeys.  With an alcohol content of 13% it has a kick to accompany the robust flavour.  After a sip I was hooked.  But in order to maintain my sense of "normal", I did the right thing and switched to a lower alcohol option.  StereoVision - same brewery, similar robust flavours and slower buzz effect.  Now that summer's here you don't want to go overboard too quickly.

The story of the humble beginnings of the brewery resonate with me.  I have had the good fortune to speak to other craft brewers and they all tell a similar tale of passion and hops and bitters.  They love what they do.  Plain and simple.

The Flying Monkeys Brewery is located in the heart of downtown Barrie ON within a short stroll to the lake and the picturesque Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe.  The store front is a blend of historical and funky as is the interior.  When you walk into the store you are greeted with a colourful collection of monkey business as well as the huge imposing glass doors that lead into the brewery itself where the large stainless vats are housed.  Aside from the rainbow of colours there's rock music playing and the alluring aroma of brewing bitters permeates the air.  There's no doubt that beer is nearby!

So you can choose your brew from the selection in the coolers and then ramp up your purchase with monkey junk - T-shirts; mugs; recipe books and other paraphernalia. A friendly reminder of the place long after the last sip is supped.

And while you're enjoying your hoppy-ness, try your hand at the Beer Cap Wisdom - a cool tool to get you thinking along the lines of a fortune cookie - the sayings that are found under the cap as you pop it off.  You may just get hooked on the sayings - quasi beer religion - and pop caps just to get sage advice.  Just remember, the sayings come from customers and bumper stickers so they may not be rocket science.  But you get to enjoy a really good brew for your efforts.

Cheers, weirdos.