Centennial College’s $90-million digs unveiled

Scarborough, ON

As reported by Bill Tremblay and the Canadian Lodging News

— While its students are well into their first semester at Centennial College’s new Culinary Arts Centre, the school is beginning to introduce the public to its state-of-the-art hospitality facility.

Planning for the $90-million facility began about three years ago. Following two years of construction, the building opened its doors in September and includes a 742-bed residence, classrooms, labs, offices, a restaurant, café and conference centre.

“It feels like natural growth. Centennial has a long history of hospitality. Some of these programs were here in 1966 when the college started,” said Joe Baker, dean of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts. “We’ve been growing ever since then. This was just the next evolution.”

With more than 353,000 square feet of floor area, the culinary centre is the largest construction project completed by the college.

Two double beds in a hotel room

One of four hotel rooms that provide students with hands-on experience.

The Local, the 90-seat restaurant and café, as well as the 20,000-square-foot event centre and four in-school hotel rooms serve as hands-on learning centres that allow students to learn their trade by serving the public.

“They’re all designed as experiential learning operations for the students,” Baker said. “The idea is to give them hands-on experience in the industry before they leave the college.”

Before opening the experiential centres, students would learn their trade in a traditional classroom, located in a former hotel near the Scarborough school.

“It was much more theoretical before,” Baker said. “We had a much smaller-scale space. It wasn’t as live and open to the public as it is now.”

The hospitality centre’s labs and classrooms are also equipped with numerous audiovisual components to assist with learning. For example, when an instructor is demonstrating a technique, cameras stream an overhead view of the lesson to screens at each student workstation.

“We wanted to make sure the spaces themselves were also designed with lots of digital capability,” Baker said. “If we’re preparing people to work in the modern food and hospitality industry, we have to ensure they’re well prepared and well versed in digital media.”

In November, Centennial held its first public event. CENTITALIA, a partnership with Toronto’s Italian Chamber of Commerce, brought four chefs from Italy to prepare a five-night dinner series alongside students.

On the final night of the event, Dahyun Choi, a third year culinary management student, worked in the kitchen with chef Filippo Saporito, whose restaurant La Leggenda Dei Frati in Florence recently received a Michelin star.

“Their cooking method, their plating and their attitude in the kitchen is amazing. They’re really friendly, but strict when they’re working with the food,” Choi said. “It’s really a rare experience to be with a Michelin star chef.”

The fine dining experience delivered by the Italian chefs is just one aspect of the culinary program. The café teaches students the quick-service format, while the restaurant also serves a market-style lunch and weekend brunch.

“We’re trying to give them exposure to all different aspects of the restaurant industry and lots of different styles,” Baker said.

Each menu, designed by the school’s executive chef and culinary team, aims to highlight the diversity found in Scarborough’s population.

“With the name, The Local, we wanted to make sure we did something that represents the community,” Baker said. “The food is very internationally inspired. It represents the diversity of Scarborough with lots of different flavour profiles, and we source ingredients from Ontario.”

The centre currently has about 1,000 students enrolled in hospitality programs. The new building will allow the college to grow its hospitality cohort by 100 per cent.

“We are growing to meet the demands of the Canadian hospitality and tourism industry,” Baker said.

“We’re growing so we can prepare enough skilled workers to support this huge industry in Canada.”