The Local Cafe and Restaurant – This School Rules

The stunning new  School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts  at Centennial College may have just opened in November, but it’s already home to 1,000 students in hospitality, food and pastry.

The state-of-the-art facilities include baking and culinary labs, a wine tasting room and a 10,000 square-feet event centre with striking views of the city. Think Google’s headquarters, but filled with food. Swoon.

Students can also be found in The Local Cafe and Restaurant, learning all aspects of hospitality from front to back of house.

Teacher, Teacher

From making reservations to butchering a whole animal, this hands-on learning gives students the skills required to succeed in hospitality.

Suzanne Caskie, Manager of Recruitment, Retention and Academic Operations says, “Students are career ready when they leave here. They’ve done a variety of jobs and have both soft skills (teamwork, showing up on time) to hard skills (work in labs).”

Graduates will be well equipped no matter what bar, hotel, restaurant, catering company or bakery they end up in.

Show and Tell

Executive chef Alison Iannarelli – a semi-finalist on Chopped Canada season two – and four sous chefs (Luca Gatti, Monzur Islam, Matthew Ness, Rory White) all came from downtown restaurants, hotels and bars. “We want to show students what’s happening at trendy, downtown restaurants, not just classic French or typical Italian,” Iannarelli says of the style of food and menu.

Dishes are prepared and served by the students, with ample onsite supervision, guidance and support. Pupils make everything from scratch either in the kitchen or a lab, including all breads, dressings – even the ketchup.

The restaurant offers lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, while the café provides gourmet coffee and specialty drinks, daily baked goods and ready-to-go meals prepared by the students daily.

The best part? It’s open to the public, is fully licensed and the food is phenomenal.

In case that’s not incentive enough: dishes are affordable ($4 to $24) and there’s no tipping, making it even more economical to dine out on the regular. The café also offers the most enticing food at prices well below what you’re used to.

Globally Influenced, Locally Crafted

Menus are inspired by the international flavour profiles that represent the rich diversity of Scarborough.

While sourcing locally available ingredients from the bounty Ontario provides, a market-style dining experience has been created for guests to eat, drink and gather together.

À la carte dinner selections include starters, stone-baked pizza, mains and desserts. For lunch, choose from a pizza, “fresh market,” global cuisine, chef’s grill, and selection of garden harvest (seasonal vegetables) and patisserie.

On the weekends, enjoy  $18 all-you-can-eat brunch buffet – with a daily omelet, variety of baked goods, breakfast items, cured meats and salads. “Breakfast cookery is a great skill for the students to have,” says Iannarelli.

Out on the patio, chefs can be found at the grill, so come and get corn on the cob, asparagus and other local favourites cooked right before your eyes.

The drinks are local too, with beer from Scarborough’s Lost Craft for example, and all juices, pop and milk in the café come from around Ontario.

For those with dietary restrictions and preferences, “We incorporate as many plant-based options as we can,” Iannarelli says, with gluten-free and vegan selections also available. For the wee ones, there’s a kid’s menu year-round.

In Addition

In the restaurant, the dinner menu changes seasonally, while lunch options evolve every three to four weeks. Staples including Margherita Pizza ($10), Local Cheeseburger ($12), and Steak Frites ($24) will always remain due to their popularity.

In the café, most items are always available but will vary, depending on what’s going on in the cooking and baking labs.

Please Take Your Seats

The expansive restaurant can seat 100 guests, with room for 20 on the patio.

Dean Joe Baker led the construction of the 2,000-square-feet space, alongside Diamond Schmitt Architects and Knightstone Capital Management Inc.

Sleek, modern, yet casual and comfortable, the room features an open-concept kitchen, hardwood floors, and locally made tables and chairs (by Toronto’s own Design Republic).

Diners get to enjoy some of the school’s high tech features by way of dramatic light fixtures, built to reduce shadows (ensuring your Instagram post is always on point) and state-of-the-art TVs. There’s no cable in the school – just Netflix, streaming on food- and restaurant-related content such as Chef’s Table, “to embed people in the culture,” as Baker puts it.

School Spirit

There’s a lot that sets The Local Cafe and Restaurant apart from your usual go-to resto. There’s the fabulous food, of course, and striking room. But it’s seeing the passion, commitment and enthusiasm of the faculty and students up-close that’s so damn inspiring.

You’ll leave not only satiated from your meal, but with the best feeling. After all, you’ve just invested in education. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Warning: After dining here, you’ll be so swept up by the experience, you’re likely to sign up for classes. And there’s so much to choose from: part-time or full-time, courses (Food Styling and Photography) to certificates (Culinary Arts, which includes mandatory course “Gourmet Global Dinners”).

Class List

At the Stove: Alison Iannarelli, Luca Gatti, Monzur Islam,  Matthew Ness, Rory White, and a whole bunch of students.

Head Honchos: Dean Joe Baker

FOH: GM Amanda Tarrant

Map it: 937 Progress Ave., right off the 401.

Visiting Hours:

Monday to Friday
Lunch: 11:30 am to 1:30 pm; Dinner: 5:00 to 7:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday Brunch: 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

Monday to Friday: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday:  9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Phone it in: 416-289-5000 x 6897

Check out our Facebook page for more photos.