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Sweet future for budding pastry chef

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun

Alexandra Macri is rolling in dough and she couldn't be happier. But it's not the green stuff -- the dough in Macri's world is the light, fluffy, so-delicious stuff of pastries.

Student of the sought-after Humber College Culinary Program and beneficiary of the esteemed Chef Alliance, Macri is a pastry chef apprentice at the Park Hyatt Hotel. Pretty spectacular beginnings, but especially notable since Macri is still a student at Father Bressani Catholic High School.

High school credits

By registering with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), Macri can apprentice in a skilled trade while earning high school credits. Using a mutually beneficial arrangement between the York Catholic District School Board, Humber College and Chef Alliance, Macri is poised to graduate from Father Bressani C.H.S. while she accumulates hours toward her chef certification.

Macri is quick to credit her co-op co-ordinator for the chain of events that led her to this significant head start. "Mr. McGuire recommended this direction," Macri says. "He showed me how to succeed with it and I wouldn't be here without him."
The sweet smell of success is in the air for OYAP student Alexandra Macri

McGuire points to Macri's hard work in a smart program for her present triumphs. "The York Catholic District School Board is savvy to the need for outsourcing in our education system," McGuire says. "And Sarkis Kay, the liaison between the school board and Humber College, is front and centre in the success we're achieving. He works on the programs that link high schools to specialized programs -- we just couldn't achieve the level of education that our kids are getting at Humber."

It's true that the Humber program is no "cakewalk," but Macri is up to the challenge. "Every time we recommend someone to Humber's culinary program, we forward that recommendation with the transcript, attendance record and a letter of application from the student," McGuire says. "This is all done in the hopes of securing an interview from the college. The professors use the interview to look for the kind of passion and commitment that will promote continued excellence in the program and ultimately, in the profession."

With a quest to maintain standards of excellence, Humber College is partnered with the Chef Alliance, a group of well-respected executive chefs from high-end restaurants and hotels across Toronto. The Alliance mandate is to give back to the community they live in and the industry they love, by matching qualified Humber students to superior restaurant and hotel work placements.

The pairing of Macri with the Park Hyatt Hotel proves that the Chef Alliance mandate is alive and well. An active member of the Alliance, the Park Hyatt represents a well-rounded apprenticeship for Macri as well as the opportunity for travel -- the Park Hyatt boasts a number of locations worldwide.

Great achievement

Says Macri, "I'm really happy here -- I've already learned so much more than I expected -- a seat at Humber is not an easy thing to achieve, but it's so worthwhile."

Joan Monfaredi, executive chef at the Park Hyatt, agrees with Macri's assessment. "Humber really prepares these apprentices beforehand -- they spend a month learning basic knife skills and kitchen etiquette as well as receiving a critical overview of what to expect from the industry. This frees up a lot of time for us to really jump right in with skills training," Chef Monfaredi says. "Alexandra hasn't been with us long and already she's progressed to making chocolate bread pudding, caramel sauce, creme anglais as well as presentations of our tea trays -- it's a testament to her abilities and commitment but it's also a testament to the preparedness she gained from the Humber program."

Macri works at the Park Hyatt from Monday to Thursday and returns to Humber College every Friday, where her training is monitored and enhanced.

Sure, she's rolling in the pastry type of dough, but Alexandra Macri is rich with the priceless open doors of professional connections, a well-established resume and a world of travel opportunities.

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

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