The golden pancake
You’ve probably been reading the same reports I have. The Ross/McMullen house, long the home of Picton Legion Branch 78, has been sold to a Toronto architect and is to be turned into an international culinary school.
Jonathan Kearns, the purchaser, already has a home in the County and has culinary experience under his belt, having designed the George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts and its associated Chefs House Restaurant. He obviously knows what he is doing. However, he says he has many decisions still to make and so he plans to proceed in phases.
His will not be the only cooking school in the County; there are at least two others of which I am aware. So how will he carve out a niche? What will be “international” about the school: the students or the dishes? Will it focus on vegan or vegetarian cooking? Will it focus on locally sourced fare? We’ll just have to wait and see. However, the good thing about having to wait is that there is time to offer Mr. Kearns some unsolicited advice. As I will.
And I have just one word for Mr. Kearns: breakfast. It’s the hottest trend in food right now —hotter than kale. McDonald’s is relentlessly advertising its all-day breakfast service. A&W is keeping pace. Starbucks has breakfast items available all day. Tim Hortons is watching its rivals closely. If I were opening a culinary school, the fastest road to success for my students would be to train them to make the best breakfasts they could, and then drop them in the deep end. They would quickly become shortlisters for the coveted Golden Pancake award, given annually to the best breakfast restaurant in Canada by the Canadian Breakfast Association.
What could be more rewarding to a food consumer than to have a trained chef cook up his or her version of your typical “Hungry Man” breakfast special. Just imagine three (County raised, free range) eggs; local ham, sausages and big rashers of real bacon (all organic and natural, not industrial grade), topped off with three slices of real white toast (baked in the County) dripping with butter (imported from Stirling or Ivanhoe) and served together with a crop of (fresh cut) home fries slathered with (Wellington’s own) mushrooms and (County grown) onions. A slice of orange (available at the supermarket) could find its way onto the plate, carved into an artful piece of sculpture, to either cleanse the palate, or provide cover against those who would have a diner eat something healthier. And all of it served with (County roasted) coffee—in bowls, Parisian style. To top it off, waitstaff could be trained in French, so that that instead of hearing the all too familar call of “More coffee, hon?” we would be asked “Un peu plus de café, cheri?” I feel the frisson of excitement as I imagine the scene.
Even for a trained chef it would be a considerable challenge to serve up the best Hungry Man breakfast possible. However, that is just the beginning. What better way to hone your newly acquired skills than to produce as well French toast, crepes, omelettes and eggs Benedict, prepared to exacting standards. Pricing the fare might be somewhat tricky, because your chefs-intraining may drop the occasional piece of eggshell in the scramble, but at the same time you wouldn’t want your prices so low that you drove local restaurants out of business. No doubt that will sort itself out.
I hear you objecting already. If students are taught breakast preparation to the exclusion of all else, they will never acquire any skill in making the gravies, sauces, soups, roasts, custards, eclairs and so on that have long been a necessary part of the repertoire of the trained chef. I say two things in rebuttal. First, you can’t ignore the strength of the demand for all day breakfast: it’s a 24/7 world, and even those who consider breakfast to be a little tub of yogurt dusted with a few chunks of granola will consider a Hungry Man breakfast as lunchtime or even suppertime food. Second, given the need for our new school to carve out its own niche, it’s a risk worth taking: besides, who has the time any more to linger over fancy meals anyway?
Good luck with the new school, Mr. Kearns. And to you would-be chefs: if you win the Golden Pancake, I’ll pay my own way to come and cheer you on.