Stratford’s Dynamic Culinary Couple

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Stratford's Culinary Couple

Meet the Dynamic Culinary Duo

Both grads of Stratford Chefs School, chefs Randi Rudner (Class of 2012) and Mike Booth (Class of 2006) are partners in life and in the kitchen, and have been fixtures of Stratford’s culinary scene for many years. 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, the city's dynamic gastronomic duo! In addition to teaching at Stratford Chefs School, Randi and Mike have been co-chefs at The Prune, Stratford, since the 2021 summer season. 

Chef Randi's Story

Hailing originally from Montreal, Randi lived in Kingston for 12 years. There, she took an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Queen’s University, taught clinical and communication skills at Queen’s University Medical School. 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 the School's former Executive Director Kimberley Payne walked up to the kitchen and told Randi her food was amazing. Randi enrolled and graduated with honours in 2012. 

She began her tenure at the iconic Rundles Restaurant after completing her second year at Stratford Chefs School, and worked under Chef Neil Baxter for six years, ending only with its closing in 2017. Following Rundles' closure, Randi worked at both Pazzo Taverna and The Prune, was the co-chef of Somewhere, a 10-seat restaurant in Stratford serving submarine sandwiches by day, and tasting menus by night. 

Randi speaks highly of her education at Stratford Chefs School, saying: “The School gave me everything. Hard skills, solid technique and a broad perspective on gastronomy and the possibilities for gastronomy in Canada.”

Chef Mike's Story

Mike Booth received a Bachelor of Science degree from Mount Allison University in 1999 before beginning his career in the culinary arts. In 2000, he left Canada for Europe to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. After staging in Borgomanero, Italy, at Michelin-rated Ristorante Pinocchio, he moved to The Netherlands to work in the beer and wine industry. Stratford Chefs School was always top of mind for Mike. As he puts it: “Stratford Chefs School 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 returned to Canada in 2004 to attend the Stratford Chefs School, graduating in 2006, and says he was so smitten by the city of Stratford and the Chefs School that he “just never left.” Mike worked at Rundles in Stratford for thirteen seasons, eventually becoming Chef de Cuisine. Since Rundles' closing, Mike has worked at Somewhere (A Restaurant) and The Prune.

The (Old) Prune Story

In 1977, what began as a "self-directed sabbatical from work" by Eleanor Kane and Marion Isherwood, transformed into the opening of The Old Prune, originally a quaint tea room in Stratford. The collaboration with James Morris of Rundles Restaurant, also established in the same year, laid the foundation for a historic culinary journey. Under the direction of Isherwood and Kane, The Old Prune quickly earned its reputation, with such past chefs as Sue Anderson, Bryan Steele, Michael Fry, Ryan O’Donnell and Jamie Crosby in the kitchen.

A Shared History: The Prune and Stratford Chefs School

When Stratford Chefs School first opened in 1983, and for many years following, students did their practical training in the kitchens and dining rooms of the three co-founder’s 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. 

In 2011, The Old Prune transitioned ownership to Windsor Hospitality, becoming The Prune. Eleanor Kane retired soon after, marking the end of an era. The Prune, now standing as a culinary institution, continues to evolve and thrive. Today, it continues proudly as part of the vibrant culinary scene in downtown Stratford, offering exquisite fine dining and a rich history that dates back to its roots as a small tea room. 

The Collaboration Continues

The Prune, now in it’s 46th season, is thrilled to be in Stratford Chefs School Kitchens & Dining Room at 136 Ontario Street and have co-head chefs Randi and Mike at the helm again this season.

The continuing partnership between The Prune and the Stratford Chefs School brings a full-circle dynamic to the culinary landscape. It not only connects the historical dots, but also provides valuable experiences for aspiring chefs, ensuring the legacy of culinary excellence in Stratford continues for years to come.

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.

'Menu Days' Recipe

Menu Days at Stratford Chefs School are a critical component of Practical Cookery Class, when students prepare and execute a series of 4 course meals as teams during class. This wonderful salad recipe is an appetizer course from one such menu. We hope you ENJOY!

Wedge Salad with Buttermilk, Barley & Sprouts

Serves 4 - 6

Ingredients

Buttermilk dressing

1/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoon sweet onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dill powder
1 green Serrano chilli, finely minced 2 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon fresh dill
1/2 bunch fresh chives
1 teaspoon fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram

1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parsley oil

2 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves

1 cup canola oil

Salad

1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup parsley oil
6 radish, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup lentil sprouts
2 heads of iceberg lettuce, cut into 4 – 6 wedges each Salad seedlings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bean Sprouts

Put the beans in a bowl and soak (3 parts water for 1 part bean) for 12 hours or overnight, at room temperature. Drain the beans and place into sprouting trays, cover with a damp cloth. Rinse the beans three times a day. When all of the beans have grown small tails, they are finished. This can take 4 – 5 days, more if the room is colder. Give the beans a final rinse, drain well and transfer to a shallow covered container and refrigerate.

Preparing the parsley oil

Fill a large bowl with water and ice and set aside. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the parsley leaves for 5 seconds. Remove the leaves quickly and transfer to the bowl of ice. Chill well and with your hands squeeze all the water out of the leaves then dry on paper towel. Put the parsley in a blender, turn the blender on and gradually add the oil. Purée until smooth, remove to a container allow the herb purée to infuse overnight, refrigerated. Filter the purée through a coffee filter, fold the paper over when it has stopped dripping and place a small weight on, this will help the filtering of more oil. You should now have a vibrant green oil.

Preparing the buttermilk dressing

In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, buttermilk, mayonnaise, onion powder, garlic powder, dill powder, chilli, garlic, chives, dill, parsley, thyme, marjoram, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and mix well. Refrigerate for up to one week.

Preparing the barley

In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine the barley with 3 cup water, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender. 20 – 25 minutes. Drain the barley and spread out on a tray to cool, refrigerate covered.

To serve

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice and parsley oil and salt to taste.

Combine the barley with the radishes, fennel, sprouts. Add 1⁄4 cup of the lemon-parsley vinaigrette to the bowl and toss to coat evenly.

Put the lettuce wedges in a separate bowl and moisten them with the remaining lemon-parsley oil dressing, making sure the dressing seeps into the crevices of each wedge, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange the lettuce wedges on individual plates. Pour the buttermilk dressing over the wedges, then distribute the dressed vegetables and barley evenly over the top and onto the plate. Drizzle extra parsley oil and buttermilk dressing around, sprinkle with salad seedlings. This salad tastes best if eaten immediately.

 

Photos by Terry Manzo (Class of 1985)

Stratford Chefs School is a not-for-profit Career College focused on the innovative, hands-on training of high-quality, aspiring Chefs and Culinary Entrepreneurs. The School’s vision is to be the primary training and education source of choice for tomorrow’s culinary leaders, and to train students with a culture code of excellence, innovation, collaboration, and respect.

Established in 1983, Stratford Chefs School has set the standard of excellence for culinary training in Canada, graduating nearly 900 alumni who contribute to a distinctive Canadian cuisine. The unique Apprenticeship program provides students with a thorough grounding in the theory and practice of classical cuisines and the business elements of operating successful restaurants in today’s market. Stratford Chefs School is one of Canada’s most successful and respected culinary institutions and is continually evolving to meet the needs of its students and the culinary community.

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