Stratford Chefs School had its start out of necessity. A burgeoning culinary industry in Stratford was emerging. Year upon year, international chefs came to the city, but there was a lack of local professionals to work in these high-octane kitchens. With the goal of training their own culinary professionals locally, the School’s co-founders met with John Evans, director of Stratford’s Canada Manpower agency, to show him that there was no program in the country at the time to train culinary professionals. Through Evans petitioning, they got a kickstart and devised to create a program themselves. A curriculum was developed to train future Canadian chefs, focusing on the fine dining restaurant model, and delivered at the new not-for-profit college, Stratford Chefs School. The goal was simple; to aim high and to match the best culinary training in Canada, America, and Europe.
The rest is history! The School has set the standard for excellence in professional culinary training in Canada, with nearly 900 alumni who have gone on to impact cuisine in Canada and throughout the world.
Co-founder Eleanor Kane teaching a class circa mid 1990’s, at Rundles Restaurant.
Kathlyn Bell | SCS Service Instructor
Mike Booth | Co-Chef, The Prune | SCS Chef Instructor
Breen Bentley | Owner, Bentley’s Bar, Inn & Restaurant
Mark Brown | Owner, Lady Glaze Doughnuts | SCS Business Instructor
Aaron Ciancone | President, Pearle Hospitality (Elora Mill Hotel & Spa, Cambridge Mill, and more)
Kim Cosgrove | Executive Director, Stratford Chefs School
Ryan Donovan | Co-Owner Richmond Station Restaurant
Rich Francis | Chef-Owner of Seventh Fire Hospitality Group
Alondra Galvez | Chef-Owner, El Cactus Taco Shop
Carl Heinrich | Co-Owner Richmond Station Restaurant
Ruth Klahsen | Owner, Monforte Dairy
Aaron Linley | Chef & Co-Owner, Bluebird Restaurant and Bar
Bronwyn Linley | Co-Owner, Bluebird Restaurant and Bar
Terry Manzo | Photographer
Ryan O’Donnell | Corporate Chef, Windsor Hospitality (The Prune, Mercer Kitchen)
Tim Otsuki | Chef-Owner, The Common
Eric Robertson | Chef, Restaurant Pearl Morissette
Randi Rudner | Co-Chef, The Prune | SCS Program Manager and Chef Instructor
Cory Vitiello | Head of Culinary Development, Cactus Club Cafe | Restaurateur
James Walt | Culinary Director, Araxi
The Chefs School has two Professional programs: a relatively new 16-week Summer program from June to September, and a 32-week program with Cook Apprenticeship, that begins in late October.
When the School first opened, and for many years following, students did their practical training in the kitchens and dining rooms of the three co-founders’ restaurants during the fall and winter, when the Stratford Festival theatre season was in hibernation. The Old Prune was the scene for the hands-on training of many cohorts of students, and where memorable Chefs School Dinner Labs for the public took place.
The co-founders’ restaurants also provided employment opportunities for Instructors and Graduates of the School; Randi Rudner and Mike Booth – Co-Chefs of The Prune and Instructors at the School – worked many seasons in the Rundles kitchen after Graduation from SCS.
The Old Prune was sold to Windsor Hospitality in 2011 and renamed The Prune, and Eleanor retired soon afterwards. Rundles closed in 2017 when Jim Morris retired, and was later sold. The Church Restaurant was sold and became Revival House, a restaurant and popular live music and wedding venue.
It was clear that the School ultimately needed to have its own dedicated training space to control its destiny, and become a year-round operation. In 2016 the permanent professional Kitchens and Dining Room at 136 Ontario Street in downtown Stratford officially opened, where practical classes and Dinner Labs have been held ever since. The School is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2023!
Student Chef Dinner Labs take place in the School's professional Kitchens and Dining Room.
Chef Instructor Bryan Steele (The Old Prune) working with students.
Alumni Chris Pinney (left) and Kim Cosgrove (current SCS Executive Director) at Rundles with Chef Neil Baxter (centre).