Originally published January 15, 2021.
You saw him win $10,000 on the second season of Chopped Canada. Now, get to know long-time industry professional, current Thistletown Collegiate Culinary Instructor and agency friend Keith Hoare.
A supportive force behind our city’s young generation of future chefs, and the Toronto culinary community as a whole, we caught up with Keith to find out how he’s using his experience and dedication toward the greater good to assist in what has been a major shift for our industry and our neighbourhoods throughout the year.
For readers who may not have virtually been introduced yet, please describe who Keith Hoare is and some details of your career journey.
I began working in restaurants at 13, and did my apprenticeship at the Constellation Hotel in Toronto. I began a catering business at the age of 19 and ran that company for 21 years. At 39, I went to U of T to attend teacher’s college. I then began my stint as a Culinary Instructor at Thistletown Collegiate in 2007. The last 13 years have been the most rewarding of my career, I love sharing my passion for food with my students.
Describe your relationship with Branding & Buzzing and some of the activities or programs you’ve collaborated on together. What did you enjoy about working with the team?
Branding & Buzzing has stepped up huge to support my high school culinary program. In 2017, we launched the Thistletown Chefs Harvest Party festival to help raise money to send my students on European culinary excursions. The team at Branding & Buzzing connected us with some great industry partners that helped make the event a huge annual success of 2017-2019. These 3 events helped raise over $56 000 and helped send students to Italy and Spain. Branding & Buzzing also created a 5-year ongoing bursary program to help support my students who demonstrate excellent leadership in Hospitality.
As a Chef-Instructor with Thistletown Collegiate’s culinary program, your teachings with our industry’s next generations of chefs typically involved in-person competitions, field trips and international travel, festivals and more. What has managed to stay the same for your programming this year, and what else has changed?
We had planned a trip to Italy in the spring of 2021 but it looks like that will have to move to Spring of 2022. It’s very disappointing for all my grade 12 students who have been working since their grade 10 year to help raise the funds for the trip. I’ve always believed in getting the students outside the confines of the classroom to experience all that the hospitality and tourism industry has to offer. My ability to do a lot of this has been shelved, I’m hopeful we will be able to return to some form of normal in 2021.
As COVID has taken a toll on the hospitality industry as a whole, it has also forced a lot more people to deal with food insecurity issues. I used to focus my classes on large quantity food production but this year, I have shifted the spotlight on how to cook on a budget, stretch your grocery dollars and how to meal plan while utilizing leftovers and eliminating household food waste.
What are some ways you teach your students, or others, to overcome challenges and adversities?
I work with a lot of students who face discrimination, food insecurity, and many other adversities in their daily lives. I work to make my classroom and kitchen a safe supportive space, a place where all of the students feel they have a voice and can share that voice through food. I’ve always tried to show the students that anything can be achieved through hard work and effort, and if you do things with kindness and compassion that you will have success. There are always naysayers that will put your ideas down. I was told I would never be able to restart the school’s football team or send students on European trips. Well, I have a former student playing in the CFL and I’ve been able to take over 75 students on 4 different European excursions.
What advice would you give aspiring culinary students and workers as they navigate decision-making and career entry/progression in a difficult foodservice climate?
We are living through a global crisis of unbelievable magnitude, I tell my students that all paths forward will be difficult no matter what career direction they choose. For the first time in many, many years, the tourism and hospitality industry is suffering with recession. As soon as people start to feel safe again, the pent-up demand for dining out, travelling and exploring the world will make the industry thrive again.
You’ve also been involved with food banks and Seeds of Hope this year. Can you describe the experience and what it meant to you to be involved in these community-driven initiatives?
At Thistletown, we have been doing an annual shelter dinner every Christmas since I began teaching in 2007. In 2018, as food waste and food insecurity began to become a more noticeable problem, we started preparing a shelter dinner every month through the school year. Through our food rescue program, we have built up an amazing community of chef partners who have always helped us with donated food.
When everything shut down in March, I reached out to the culinary community and offered to continue to do the work of my classes by getting food out to shelters, food banks and preparing meals for those in need. I’m so grateful that Chef John Placko, Chef Joanna Sable and Chef Charlotte Langley all stepped up to help me redistribute food that might have ended up in landfills. Chef John and I are currently distributing to over 10 different food banks and shelters and have produced over 30,000 meals and desserts for some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Humber College is currently donating all the food produced in their culinary labs for us to distribute throughout the Northwest Toronto community, a community that has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. We are in a time of great crisis, I’m happy to do what I can do to hopefully ease a little bit of the pain that people are feeling now.
What are some ways members of the community in and out of the foodservice industry can support or assist with these kinds of programs?
There are lots of people and organizations stepping up in this pandemic, and it is a good thing. Every community across Ontario has people struggling with food insecurity. Visits to food banks and shelters are only going to increase, the demand is not going away anytime soon. If you have some food that needs rescuing, please reach out to me or other organizations like Second Harvest or the Daily Bread Food Bank and make sure it gets out to people that need it most.
Service clubs and churches are also always looking for volunteers and donations to help them with their community outreach programs. At Thistletown, we have partnered with the Kiwanis Club to help prepare meals for the Good Shepherd Ministry. We have also received great support from the Rotary and Optimist clubs. These organizations do great work but need community support to keep going strong.
What else has been keeping Keith Hoare busy this year, and what can we expect to see from you in the coming months?
The shelter dinner and food bank project had been my second full-time job since mid-March. I thought that once we had rescued food from the first lockdown that donations would dry-up, boy was I wrong! I worked with school colleagues to create 75 Christmas hampers for our most vulnerable students. Members of the Culinary Federation – Chef Shonah Chalmers, Chef John Placko and others – came to the TCI kitchens to help create a ton of shelter dinners for the Christmas season. In the new year, I’m hoping to get my students back out into the world to experience the amazing hospitality industry we have in Ontario (and beyond!)
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