by Kristina Groeger, Photo by John Gundy
In the age-old tradition of training a new generation of chefs through apprenticeship, Canadian founding father Chef Michael Stadtländer is starting the Eager Beaver Scholarship for two hard working chef school students. These scholars will have room and board taken care of for a thirteen month apprenticeship period while touring across Canada from coast to coast.
Chef Michael Stadtländer took a minute to speak to me about his new scholarship and the fundraiser.
KG: Why do you think is it important for young chefs to apprentice in various cities and environments?
MS: A lot of young people are going to Europe to finish their apprenticeships, however in Canada there is a lot of wealth for example simply from an ingredient point of view. Also, we are now coming out of a culinary infancy and there are a lot of strong and interesting chefs doing things that they weren’t before. What you learn at a young age forms you into what you into what type of chef you will become later on.
KG: You began your career as an apprentice in Lubeck, Northern Germany. What personal and cultural influences from your apprenticeship are reflected in your food today?
MS: Not a lesson specifically, but I will always remember the key principal of the farmers and producers of high quality products coming right through the back door of the restaurant. Bringing their first strawberries, smoked ham, fresh fish etc. It always came in fresh every day straight from their farms. It was always important to me to have a great relationship with the gardeners, farmers and producers.
KG: In my experience as a young chef I did (and still do) stagier / apprentice roles, 99% of the time I am not paid. What is your attitude towards young cooks working for free?
MS: I think the idea of the Journeyman (apprentice) is very important. Traditionally in Germany apprentices are paid through room and board. In the years past the Chef traditionally would take care of his apprentices. This is the way I go about business at my farm. My apprentices don’t have to look after their food, drink or their quarters, they focus on cooking.
Usually the apprentices stay for a period of six months. Today I have a crew of three chefs who have asked me if they could stay for a year. As a master I took that as a great compliment that they wanted to stay with me longer to learn further.
KG: What do you personally look for in an apprentice?
MS: I like for them to have a good base of knowledge already, ideally from a school. I like them to have some existing knife skills, they have to like animals and gardening, they are a person who can live in a community and have good manners. Right now there are ten people staying with us, so it’s very important we all live well together.
KG: It would be amazing if we could go back to those old roots here in Toronto.
MS: Absolutely. This is the idea of the scholarship. The Eager Beaver Scholarship winners will be taken care of by the Chef they are working for. They will be working from the East Coast to the West Coast. We are even giving them a digital camera to capture their culinary experiences.
KG: How can a chef student apply for this scholarship?
MS: George Brown Chef School or Canadian Pacific institute will decide the criteria, be it good grades or competition to find their top student. The institutions and I are still ironing out the criteria for the scholarship.
KG: Tell us a little bit about the fundraiser at the Drake on Monday July 26th. What will you be preparing at the fundraiser and who should we expect to see?
MS: There will be a cook-off between Steve Gonzales of Origin, Nick Liu of Niagara Street Cafe, Kevin McKenna of Globe Bistro and Alida Solomon of Tutti Matti. The winner of the cook-off will win All-Clad pots and pans and a ticket to the Canadian Chef Congress.
KG: What are you preparing?
MS: I’m going to make something nice with my piglets. I have a hybrid of Big Black English and Texas Red and I really like them.
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On Monday July 26th at 7:00pm the scholarship fundraiser will be at The Drake Hotel. . As well as the cook-off, you can enjoy the culinary stylings of:
Chef Michael Stadtländer, Haisai, Singhampton
Chris Aerni, Rossmount Inn, NB
Edward Tuson, EdGe Restaurant, BC
Jeremy Charles, Raymonds NL
Anthony Rose, The Drake Hotel
Anthony Walsh – Canoe
Adam Colquhoun, Oyster Boy
As well as:
The Dairy Farmers of Canada – Cheese
Tickets are available at the door at The Drake Hotel or at the Canadian Chef Congress website.
Kistina Groeger is a professional cook, amateur photographer, part time food writer and full time nerd. Her website address is kristinagroeger.com