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College renews ‘sweet’ partnership with world-class chocolatiers

April 21, 2015

chocolate-making 2012Red River College’s Culinary Arts students already benefit from having access to the finest chocolate, and now a new agreement ensures that arrangement will continue for the foreseeable future.

The in-kind donation comes from a partnership between RRC’s Paterson GlobalFoods Institute and Cacao Barry and Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturers of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products. Originally signed in 2012, the successful union continues with a three-year extension that will see Barry Callebaut provide RRC with an expanded line of chocolates and fillings.

“Cacao Barry and Callebaut’s top-end chocolates have been a huge resource for the college, and have taken the chocolate lessons we provide to a higher level,” says Don Pattie, pastry instructor in the Culinary Arts program. “Continuing with this partnership is an outstanding opportunity for our students that places them well above students in a lot of other colleges.”

In addition to the chocolate, RRC will continue to send one Culinary Arts instructor each year to Barry Callebaut’s chocolate academy in Montréal. Barry Callebaut’s chocolatiers will also visit RRC every second year to run demonstrations for aspiring chefs.

“They have the best equipment and the most knowledgable people,” says Pattie. “Everything at their academies is specifically devoted to chocolate. It’s an incredible experience to learn there and bring that knowledge back to our students.”

Anusha Prabhakar, Barry Callebaut’s regional gourmet sales manager for the Prairies, says the decision to continue the partnership was an easy one.

“Red River College is so open-minded in trying new things, and making sure that students have access to all the innovative products we make,” says Prabhakar. “They understand that students going into the real world may face difficulties in challenging the status quo, which could be due to various factors, including access to quality ingredients.”

While many culinary schools offer one or two types of chocolate, RRC — with help from Barry Callebaut — can now offer 14 specialized types from countries such as Ghana or Madagascar. The products allow students to learn the finer details of different chocolates, and use them to create delectable desserts.

“Instead of just saying, ‘I want a bittersweet chocolate,’ they could say, ‘I want a chocolate that has nice red berry notes and lingering aftertaste,’” says Pattie. “They can do that because we have this range of chocolate.”

One aspect of the agreement that Pattie would like to see grow is the inclusion of high schools in the chocolate demonstrations.

“We’re going to high schools and saying, ‘If you come to Red River College, these are the kinds of products you get to work with.’ It’s not just someone holding up a sign that says what’s available. We’re getting students to taste the Cacao Barry and Callebaut chocolate and analyze it.”

For Barry Callebaut, that commitment to reach out to the community is part of what makes RRC stand out as a partner.

“I had no idea there were so many high schools in Manitoba teaching pastry and bakery,” says Prabhakar. “Red River College made a point of bringing in schools from areas like Winkler (Northlands Parkway Collegiate) and Selkirk (Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School). I’m hoping that more colleges will do the same, and we’re happy to support such efforts.”

The hope is that interested high school students will one day join the ranks of RRC graduates serving their sweet creations in restaurants across Canada.

“I’ve got chefs from Montréal to Vancouver who still talk about the times they worked with Cacao Barry and Callebaut at the College,” says Pattie.

Learn more about RRC’s Culinary Arts program.