Proud Graduates of the Stratford Chefs School’s Cookery Program make up a network of close to 900 alumni worldwide. Since 1985, our grads have gone on to operate their own businesses, take positions at prestigious restaurants, and continue to learn and branch out to other areas of the food and hospitality industry as sommeliers, hotel managers, nutritionists, educators, and more.
We love to share Alumni success stories and showcase what our grads are up to!
One of the country’s leading chefs, cookbook author and “farm-to-table” pioneer, James Walt continues to inspire his guests, creating compelling regional cuisine based on local, sustainable ingredients. A graduate of the Stratford Chefs School, his impressive culinary career spans across several of British Columbia’s leading restaurants including a four-year tenure at Sooke Harbour House and as opening chef to sister restaurant Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver. James was also Executive Chef to the Canadian Embassy in Rome, Italy; an experience that helped shape the way he cooks today. James now takes the reins at the reimagined Il Caminetto as Executive Chef to bring a modern interpretation of Italian classics to the mountainside resort.
James is Whistler’s only chef to cook at the celebrated James Beard House in New York City where he has performed on four separate occasions. He has been voted best chef in Whistler by Pique Newsmagazine and was inducted into the British Columbia Restaurant Association Hall of Fame in 2011.
As a follow-up to his James Beard–nominated first cookbook, James and his team share recipes from Araxi Restaurant’s dining room and signature Araxi Longtable Dinner events, all adapted for delicious home cooking in Araxi: Roots to Shoots, Farm Fresh Recipes. James’ newest book – containing 80 classic recipes complemented by striking photography – is available at Araxi Restaurant and fine book retailers.
Recent accolades for Araxi include Where Magazine’s Best Formal Whistler Restaurant and the Georgia Straight Golden Plate Awards’ Best Whistler Restaurant.
James lives in nearby Squamish where he works closely with local farmers and producers and personally selects the freshest ingredients featured on the Araxi menualmost
Mike Booth, Class of 2006 and Randi Rudner, Class of 2012 | Co-chefs, The Prune
Chefs Randi Rudner (Class of 2012) and Mike Booth (Class of 2006) have been fixtures of Stratford’s culinary scene for many years. Currently Randi is the Stratford Chefs School’s Program Manager and an Instructor, while Mike is the School’s Purchasing Agent and a senior Instructor. After more than a decade of marriage, teaching at the Stratford Chefs School, and working together in many of Stratford’s pre-eminent restaurants, they are still going strong!
Randi began her culinary career under two Stratford Chefs School graduates Stevan George (Class of 1995) and Deanna Harrington (Class of 1993), working at the Kingston, Ontario favourite, Olivea. She was cooking on the line one day when former Stratford Chefs School Executive Director Kimberley Payne walked up to the kitchen and told Randi her food was amazing. She suggested Randi follow in the footsteps of Stev and Deanna and the rest is Stratford Chefs School history.
Randi speaks highly of her education at SCS, saying: “The school gave me everything. Hard skills, solid technique and a broad perspective on gastronomy and the possibilities for gastronomy in Canada.”
She began her tenure at the iconic Rundles Restaurant after completing her second year at SCS, ending only with its closing in 2017. She and Mike shared duties in the Rundles kitchen over those years and now they are proudly co-Chefs at The Prune Restaurant.
Mike attended university and cooked in various restaurants to fund that education. He decided to travel and cook his way through Europe to discover if he wanted to make the culinary arts his profession. Stratford Chefs School was always top of mind for Mike. As he puts it: “SCS was ahead of its time. There were very few institutions like it and it gave me the best opportunity to learn the deeper elements of gastronomy.” Mike was so smitten by the city of Stratford and the Chefs School that he “just never left.”
We’re all the better for it! Stratford is grateful for Randi and Mike’s immense contributions to both Stratford Chefs School and the fine local restaurants they’ve helped make so memorable.
Chef Rich Francis’ Gwich’in community is the foundation for his cooking, and he’s exploring the path to reconciliation through modern Aboriginal cuisine.
“Fort McPherson is actually where the foundation of my food starts,” Francis said. “Because of the food memories that I have from that time in my life.” He was raised in the small Northwest Territories community and went to school there until about Grade 2, when he moved to Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario.
Prior to joining Stratford Chefs School, Francis had never stepped foot in a professional kitchen: “I started late in the game so there was some anxiety or some nervousness attached to that whole time in my life. But as soon as I started, something inside of me recognized the culinary arts; it was really bizarre. I excelled immediately and I always knew that I was to do something unique with Indigenous food.”
A life-changing opportunity arose when he became the first Indigenous chef to appear on the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada, where he placed third in Season 4 (2014).
Now chef-owner of Seventh Fire Hospitality Group, Francis visits his home community to share his culinary artistry with students. Since he began his television journey, he has found himself being looked at as a leader. “Now I’m stepping into that role more and more every day. If people can get inspired and take something away from having spent time with me, then great.“
Chef Francis has been a Canadian Guest Chef at Stratford Chefs School, and is also Chef host of @wildgametv and @redchefrevival web series, which features three chefs including himself, each travelling to different Indigenous communities across the country, to learn about the culinary methods unique to each community’s traditions. “It’s really just about giving Indigenous cuisine its proper place in the Canadian food scene.”
Congratulations Chef Rich!
For lifelong Stratford resident, Steve Doyle, the path to Stratford Chefs School wasn’t immediate. Having graduated high school and pondering next steps, Steve was invited by a friend to join him working with the kitchen team at Pazzo Pizzeria. “I remember tasting food there that wasn’t like anything I was brought up with. I liked the energy and the camaraderie, and it was gratifying to look out into the dining room and see people enjoying what I created.”
His stint at the pizzeria set Steve’s professional culinary journey in motion. After spending a winter in the pizzeria he was invited by then Head Chef Dean Elieff (Class of 1993) to join him in the newly minted Pazzo Ristorante, where he gained valuable kitchen experience and further interest in becoming a chef. “Being from Stratford I was familiar with the school, and I had a number of friends who had become alumni. Through these connections and after researching other culinary institutions in the area I decided that SCS was where I wanted to study.”
Steve admired the model SCS was founded on: ”I thought that having chef instructors at the top of their game was a big draw. The Chefs School had small classes with lots of one-on-one instruction, and was one of the only places offering this style of education.”
After graduation Steve had an opportunity to travel and cook in the Caribbean; but it was his return to Stratford a few years later that charted his present career as a Sommelier. Moving back to Stratford, Steve was unable to find a head chef position at any Stratford restaurant – a stark contrast with the job market in hospitality today. Friends Bronwyn and Aaron Linley (both Class of 1996) asked him if he would consider working front of house at their celebrated restaurant Bijou. “Bronwyn was completing her CAPS sommelier program and I was exposed to a lot of really great wine and invited to taste many alongside her,” Steve says. “They were devoted to good wine and I developed my palate in the same way my experience tasting a sweet, ripe tomato sparked my interest in cooking.”
Steve was hired back to Pazzo, but this time as the manager of the Taverna. He completed his WSET Sommelier training and has been fortunate to travel and taste delicious wines throughout his career. “I like the academic side of wine and my passion has allowed me opportunities to travel and taste great wines. Sometimes I miss cooking, but I always enjoy pouring wine for my customers. I like to make people happy.”
If you’ve ever met Ann Marie Moss (Class of 1992), her indefatigable spirit, gentle smile and Irish charm will make you feel like you’re the luckiest person in the world. And one can get the feeling it’s the world Ann Marie has set out to conquer. This Stratford Chefs School alumna has an amazing story to tell about passion, hard work and entrepreneurship.
Many of these qualities were borne of her experiences growing up on Moss Berry Farm where she worked alongside her seven siblings and her parents picking berries among the many other tasks involved in family farming. In her spare time, she was establishing herself in service and management positions at Stratford Chefs School founding restaurants Rundles and The Old Prune. It was here that Ann Marie’s interest was piqued to attend the School. “I grew up working with entrepreneurs,” she says, referencing the School’s co-founders James Morris and Eleanor Kane. “Chefs school gave me transferable skills which you can apply to any industry.”
After graduating from the University of Guelph with a degree in Hotel and Food Administration she traded her book bag for a backpack and headed for Australia. Upon returning home Ann Marie decided to enrol in Stratford Chefs School because she saw first-hand the school was run by people who would strive to meet the highest expectations in the industry: “If your expectations are high, the quality can’t be lower.” This is the ethic Ann Marie has brought to her numerous entrepreneurial endeavours.
Her first independent business was baking pies and supplying them to Stratford restaurants like Down the Street. “I did everything from scratch, which was difficult, but you learn a lot from running your own business.” The pies transitioned nicely to her and husband Al Weber’s Moss Berry Farm Preserves which they sell across the country. “It’s been an exercise in growing a quality product in the marketplace.”
Next up, the couple created Moss Berry Farm’s Original Canadian Switchel, an all-natural energy drink. “We wanted to develop a traditional beverage made with real ingredients. We’ve introduced something new to the market and targeted it to health-conscious younger people,” says Ann Marie. Turns out it’s even more popular with older people. “Taking risks is part of success. Sometimes you just don’t know what will happen.”
Parents to four adult children, in addition to running the jam and switchel business, she and her husband Al are developing a Christmas tree farm on the family property south of Stratford. Did we mention she also teaches high school in Waterloo? Must be something in those berries! You can visit Ann Marie and try her delicious jams and switchels at www.mossberryfarm.com