George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts

The Chefs’ House, offering fine-dining cuisine at popular prices, is one of Toronto’s great culinary bargains. George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts had a previous teaching restaurant open to the public, Siegfried’s, but the room was dismal and dowdy. The long-awaited Chefs’ House, on the other hand, offers a setting stylish and elegant enough for the most discriminating gourmand.

No longer confined to rear and basement kitchens, George Brown’s student chefs are now visible in a culinary performance through a two-storey glass facade that exposes four kitchen “labs” to the street. The students’ starched white chef uniforms are visible against a backdrop of gleaming stainless-steel workstations, ranges, ovens, washing stations, and racks of pots and pans. These exposed labs reflect the changing profile of the culinary industry by glamorizing the preparation of food and offering students a hands-on experience, rather than learning within more conventional demonstration kitchens. And the student chefs’ performance advertises and brands the college.

The interior one-ups that old standby of restaurant design, lining the walls in mirror so that an inward-facing diner doesn’t have to stare at a blank wall. Here, instead of mirrors, plasma monitors display close-up views of food preparation.

Elsewhere in the Hospitality faculty’s renovation, the basement was expanded to make room for additional culinary labs and to increase back-of-house storage for food and supplies. A newly reworked central atrium at the main level provides an expansive area for functions. Part of the second floor was cut away to create a double-height space over the atrium with a circular mezzanine accommodating a new student cafe. On the third floor, a cantilevered meeting room adds to the visual connections.

Design team: From Kearns Mancini, Peter Ng, project architect; Jonathan Kearns, partner-in-charge; and Nolan Bentley, Keith Button, Dan McNeil, Ivana Ristic and Erika Zaphiratos. From Gow Hastings, Valerie Gow and Philip Hastings, partners; James Burkitt, associate; Jimmy Sun, architect; and Greg Demaiter, intern architect