Master Cooks of Etobicoke train with Humber pastry chef  Devonne Sitzer (Chef D)

Humber instructor and pastry chef, Devonne Sitzer (Chef D), is cooking up a storm with the Boys & Girls Club of Albion (BGCA), a program of Albion Neighbourhood Services. 

In partnership with Humber College and Recipe Unlimited Corporation, the Club hosted their first Master Cooks of Etobicoke program for local youth ages 13 to 18 who are interested in pursuing careers in the culinary sector.

In this free, seven-week program, participants are able to develop basic culinary skills with Chef D while exploring pathways to postsecondary education. Students are able to learn new recipes and engage in customer service, WHIMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and Food Handling training.

“This program prepares students for the hospitality industry by providing them with fundamental cooking techniques, team building skills, kitchen terminology, proper safe food handling practices and a glimpse of what to expect in professional kitchens,” says Chef D.

Chef D has been teaching pastry and baking arts, as well as cooking fundamentals at Humber for the past five years and says the Master Cooks program is a community-based opportunity that is connected with Community Outreach and Workforce Development (COWD) as part of their regular mandate to support access to postsecondary education and the workforce.

Master Cooks of Etobicoke train with Humber pastry chef

Humber finds new ways to drive social innovation in workforce development. By focusing on communities and equity seeking groups facing challenges in accessing education or training, Humber's COWD department helps those individuals develop skills, competencies and personal career goals through innovative partnerships with community and industry partners. 

“Other than providing culinary skills and teaching recipes and healthy learning, we are opening minds to new career opportunities, postsecondary education and exposing our youth to culinary programs and the food industry,” says Khudaija Sheikh, program manager, Boys & Girls Club of Albion.

BGCA is one of Humber’s local partners that wanted to introduce a program to engage youth in skill development leading to entry-level work in the food industry and encourage youth to explore new education pathways and long-term career goals.

“The opportunity to demonstrate what a polytechnic education is like, while also stressing the different pathways into and through postsecondary education provides an invaluable opportunity for local youth to visualize themselves in a college environment and learn about the options and resources that exist to support them,” says Nivedita Lane, Manager of Community and Partnership Development.

Master Cooks is one of many programs BGCA offers to provide a safe and supportive place where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life.

“This is a new program and students are loving working with Chef D. Partnering with Humber has enhanced the program overview, allowing it to become a high-profile program that teaches a variety of youth,” says Sheikh.

Master Cooks welcomed 20 students this year and will give students the opportunity to visit Humber’s culinary labs at North Campus to experience the postsecondary level of culinary skills and training. Humber culinary student, Eden Laing volunteered as a mentor in the program. As a mentor, Laing shared experiences and insight with the local youth into what it meant to take their skills to the next level at Humber

Master Cooks of Etobicoke train with Humber pastry chef

“Involvement with programs like this is important for Humber because we are a part of a larger community where access to education is a growing area of need, while on the other hand, we know that we are facing a skills gap in the Canadian and global workforce. Involvement in local development initiatives for youth and other individuals in our communities demonstrates our commitment to economic growth and positive social transformation,” says Lane.

Humber offers a variety of programs in baking, culinary and nutrition, which provide students with practical career-ready skills developed in real-world facilities. Students also have the opportunity to expand their cultural experiences by studying globally.

“I hope students realize that cooking is a fun life skill. With a little creativity, a few simple ingredients can produce a healthy and delicious meal for themselves and their families,” says Chef D. “I also hope the skills they learned will help them achieve their goal to become a chef.”