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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Blending the ingredients for success

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

Great cooks around the world agree that a successful recipe requires quality ingredients, mixed well. It's a culinary standard that aspiring chef Rory Thompson understands. In fact, as a recent graduate of Sacred Heart Catholic High School, his own personal journey mirrors the basics of great cooking.

Because Thompson's recipe for success is all about quality ingredients, well-blended.

The York Catholic District School Board and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities are two of those ingredients. Their collaboration gives students the opportunity to apprentice in a skilled trade while satisfying high school requirements.
Chef apprentice Rory Thompson, left, with supervising chef Anthany WIlliams at the Howard Johnson Hotel, is learning the basics of the craft.

The initiative is called the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), and its goal is to better prepare students for the skilled career of their choice within the structured environment of high school.

"OYAP is a wonderful three-way relationship," says Ron Dorcas, co-op coordinator at Sacred Heart C.H.S. "For example, at Sacred Heart, we prepared Rory for his placement and monitored his progress throughout the term. He gained an excellent introduction to college by attending Humber (College) once a week for the corresponding in-school chef apprenticeship course -- the Humber program has an excellent reputation, even outside Canada. And through his placement, he gained a professional connection to his industry -- the chef alliance happens to be very much behind this program, so the networking possibilities are tremendous."

Thompson's placement took him to Howard Johnson Hotel, where he apprenticed from February to July of this year. His supervisor, chef Anthany Williams, taught Thompson more than the basics.

"I wanted Rory to realize that this is a tough job and you'll work most holidays," Williams says. "He needed to know how to conduct himself, how to respect all the different departments of hospitality. And safety in the kitchen is paramount."

"Chef Williams showed me how to use the knives and how to make the sauces -- but he was a great mentor for me also," says Thompson.

Dorcas agrees with his student's assessment: "Tony Williams gave Rory the poise and self-esteem that he needs to succeed in this industry -- what a great way to give a student a head start."

Unfortunately, what may have become a full-time apprenticeship at Howard Johnson Aurora was not meant to be for Thompson.

"This was due to the downturn in Toronto's hospitality industry and was not a reflection on Rory's abilities or commitment," Williams says.

Thompson has continued working in the food industry, and has used his team building and people skills to become a manager at a McDonald's restaurant in Newmarket.

"I will return to Humber for my required college courses in January -- I intend to keep going until I am a certified chef," Thompson says.

Thompson will need to complete about 6,000 apprenticeship hours and the affiliated in-school apprenticeship course at Humber College before he can certify.

"It really doesn't matter how long it takes -- I will get there," Thompson says.

We know that an essential part of great cooking is quality ingredients. Rory Thompson shows us that the essential ingredients of a great future are dedicated educators, big-hearted professionals, hard work, determination and quality programs -- well blended.

(Aunie Edwards ( is a Guelph-based freelance writer.)

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