On a Tuesday afternoon at two o'clock, the dining room…
Recently appointed to the role of executive chef at Conestoga College’s new (and as yet unnamed) restaurant at the Waterloo Campus, Brad Lomanto has a long cooking resume, the last eight years of which have been at Cambridge’s luxe Cambridge Mill. He says it was quite a coincidence that the posting for the College position appeared just as he had been contemplating the next phase of his career.
“I was the executive chef at the Mill since it opened, and the last couple of years I started to realize that what I’ve really enjoyed doing the most was teaching kids that come in here as dishwashers or co-op students and turn it into a career. I loved being able to coach them and teach them new things,” says Lomanto.
For Lomanto, the College restaurant position is a logical step that blends cooking in a professional kitchen and culinary education. “When I got into cooking originally, it was to make fancy plates and shiny sauces and work with amazing cooks in fabulous restaurants. I still enjoy that, but seeing people make progress in the profession and in their lives is what makes me excited now.”
Education had always been part of his career – he graduated from the Niagara College culinary program – and Lomanto considers that you are both always instructing and always learning. “Someone’s taking the time to work with you, so you make sure that you return that somewhere down the line.”
When he has talked to recent culinary school graduates that have come into his kitchen at the Mill, whether they are 18 or 30 years old, Lomanto senses the same level of frustration that the restaurant isn’t exactly what they expected based on their experiences at culinary school. He adds that after touring the new Waterloo culinary facility what he sees is vastly different than what he recalls from his student days. “The facilities at Conestoga are second to none. It’s what students will see when they come into a big private-sector facility like the Cambridge Mill where all the equipment is top notch with new technologies and trends. They’ve upped and game and set a new standard here.”
In the College restaurant, Lomanto says he will be able to offer his experience and a practical approach to cooking professionally. “This is another restaurant in town, not just the College restaurant. We’re going to operate for customers and cook what people want to eat right now, in this season and what farmers and markets are offering at the moment just as much as we can. That’s exactly the way I’ve always run kitchens, and I want to expose students to those processes and that approach.”
Lomanto says he’s planning for a restaurant that is approachable and accessible. “And I want it to be local with farmers playing a key role. As for the menu, I love the idea of small plates that are good for sharing. Rather than committing to one appetizer, it’s more fun to enjoy a couple smaller appetizers with smaller price tags. You can experience and share more food. My vision is to keep it as casual as possible.”
We had a few questions for Lomanto …
What’s your proudest culinary accomplishment?
Brad Lomanto: Being appointed to this position with the College.
Favourite dish to make?
Favourite dish to eat?
Lomanto: Dry-aged ribeye. With anything.
Favourite ingredient to work with?
Favourite recipe of all time?
Lomanto: Fresh pasta.
Strangest thing you’ve eaten?
Lomanto: Well, that would have to be horse heart tartare.
Chef you’ve learned most from?
Lomanto: Marc St. Jacques (formerly of Auberge du Pommier; soon-to-open Bridgewater Hotel, Burlington, Ontario).
Chef who was your idol?
Lomanto: Anthony Bourdain.