It’s been a spring of accolades for Brock Dining Services. One of its chefs has received a prestigious culinary scholarship, and the University scored two gold medals in a North American food service competition.
Chef Jim Harper, a 26-year employee of Brock, is the only chef in Canada to receive a Canadian College and University Food Service Association Development Grant. With the award, he’ll attend a five-day culinary conference at the University of Massachusetts from June 12 to 17.
Brock also won a double gold in the National Association of College and University Food Services awards, described as “the ultimate professional tribute” in collegiate food service. The awards – one for the new Guernsey Market, the other for hospitality at the annual General Brock’s October Soiree – pitted Brock against universities in the U.S. and Canada. Until now, the most Brock has ever won was a silver.
It all signifies turning a new leaf when it comes to food service at Brock, said Tom Arkell, director of Community and Ancillary Services. It’s an era that started with the opening of the Guernsey Market last year, when Brock’s focus shifted to healthy, locally available food.
“We’re extremely happy,” he said. “The investments we’ve put into food service, both in dollars and efforts, are starting to show.”
Strong food service, he said, “is the foundation in the way we care for our community.”
The scholarship is a boon for Harper, a St. Catharines resident who started at Brock as a bus boy in September 1985. Over the years, his ease in the kitchen took him through the ranks. He is now one of six chefs who craft daily meals using local food.
Some of his creations: a roasted barley risotto with asiago cheese and maple, and a Louisiana chicken corn chowder. He makes Ritz cracker and pecan-crusted chicken breast with Creole honey mustard sauce. A fan of New Orleans-style cooking, he also enjoys making jambalaya and gumbo.
Since the Guernsey Market opened, Harper has traveled to local farms to gauge the availability and menu options using Niagara’s bounty. One of his goals in attending the conference is to learn new ways to incorporate local food, he said.
“The market brought an explosion of new ideas and new things happening,” said Harper, who would like to see even more ways to incorporate local farmers. “We can use fresh local meat and local produce, and if we want to mix it up, we can. With the market, we can make it happen.”