The best French fries are cooked twice: a first-cooking softens…
Food and the love of it is a part of Carrie Herzog’s very DNA.
The Kitchener resident and Waterloo Region native has a solid family food background based in the region, and she draws on that in her teaching hospitality at Conestoga College.
“We’re fifth generation Kitchenerites,” Herzog says. “One of the vestiges of that culture is some of the things we eat, like potato pancakes. It was something that I loved. Food is a focus for our family.”
So keen was that interest that it shaped her academic and career pursuits. “I went into Canadian history at the University of Waterloo because I loved learning about what people ate and how they talked about food.” As a history student, Herzog worked at Woodside National Historic Site, including the history and enactment of afternoon teas from the 1890s and using cooking techniques and equipment from the era. “Using a wood stove to cook a turkey is very challenging,” she says with a laugh.
Her Master’s thesis examined the history of vegetarianism in Canada. She took an MBA and a PhD in Services Management with a specialization in the Hospitality and Tourism industries through the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph. There, her dissertation looked at sustainability issues in full-service restaurants. “It did indicate that we don’t communicate a lot about sustainability,” says Herzog succinctly summarizing her project’s conclusions. That understanding has in turn focussed a lot of her teaching subsequently.
“I generally eat anything. I tend to love Mediterranean and especially Italian foods. I love carbohydrates!”
Having already been working in Conestoga’s business school, Herzog moved into the Hospitality and Culinary Arts school in the fall of 2018—there, she has both a local and wider perspective of the industry: with her specialty, Herzog teaches Conestoga students front-of-house operations, but she is also Coordinator of the Global Hospitality Management program. “It’s a year-and-a-half program geared to international students who already have a degree. They arrive here and we talk about strategy, operations, human resources and other aspects of the industry. It’s designed to introduce them to the Canadian hospitality scene.”
“A very positive atmosphere”
“The facilities here are just fantastic and much like you find in the work place,” Herzog says. “I haven’t seen anything like it. The classrooms, the pastry labs and the restaurant kitchen are all part of a very positive atmosphere.”
The meshing of the components is particularly important, adds Herzog, who has combined experience in the academic sphere and in the food and beverage industry: she continues to work professionally in the industry when possible. “I’ve been on the academic side of hospitality for some time, but I think college marries practice and theory very well. The students get the best approach and the best training because there’s always an ability to draw on experience that says this does or doesn’t work. It is one thing to be able to talk about theory, but it’s another beast altogether to try to apply it. Here, students have to blend the two almost from day one.”
Herzog says that learning never stops and draws on her own experience in academics and the theoretical sphere as well as her experience in the industry to teach students that they need to nurture a willingness to learn. “Every day in the class and on the job you can learn, whether it’s about a new food or a new technique. That includes developing an ability to problem-solve critically and quickly on your feet—and not by Googling it because you can’t use your phone on the floor. I also think communication skills are crucial.”
Engagement with food, engagement with students
Looking ahead, Herzog sees a new young generation of restaurant customers eschewing the meat and potatoes that has defined food in the Waterloo Region. “We’re morphing a bit away from the carbohydrates, meat and vegetables that are familiar and value-laden. Remember, food habits are among the last things to change out of any cultural piece. People will go back to the nostalgic, familiar foods that their parents made for them.”
Craft beers are exploding, and it indicates energy and the entrepreneurship that food encourages. “It’s the ingenuity that we have here and the great stories to tell. I see us moving toward new ingredients and new techniques at the same time there are a lot of allergens that food operators have to deal with. I’ve never seen so many preferences, intolerances and allergies in the last couple of years.”
Her engagement with the College’s students includes giving them the tools that will help them succeed. “They can have a great career in front-of-house operations. In North America, we see the career as transitory rather than professional, and I want students to be able to take pride in this work,” she says.
“I like business, but I’m happy to be back home in hospitality—where’s food to talk about.”
A few rapid fire questions for Carrie Herzog
“I love everything once,” Herzog says about food. “I generally eat anything. I tend to love Mediterranean and especially Italian foods. I love carbohydrates!” On the beverage side, she enjoys whiskeys and prefers wine that has been oaked. “Mellow, buttery flavours,” she says.
Conestoga College: What’s your proudest culinary accomplishment?
Carrie Herzog: Anytime dinner turns out. I experiment a lot.
Favourite dish to make?
Herzog: Any type of soup or ice cream.
Favourite dish to eat?
Herzog: I can’t choose just one! I love Italian food, generally speaking.
Favourite ingredient to work with?
Favourite recipe of all time?
Herzog: Old fashioned, 19th-century shortbread.
Strangest thing you’ve eaten?
Herzog: Chocolate covered crickets.
Chef you’ve learned most from?
Herzog: Chef Michael Smith.
Chef who was your idol?
Herzog: Chef Lynn Crawford.
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