Niagara College instructor honoured by national culinary federation


Published July 13, 2022 at 3:19 pm

Catherine O’Donnell (right) was inducted into the Canadian Culinary Federation Honour Society during the Culinary Federation’s national conference in Saskatoon, June 15. Pictured with O’Donnell is Honour Society chair Claude Buzon.

When Niagara College’s Catherine O’Donnell was one of just five chefs inducted into an exclusive group recently, what mattered the most to her? Turns out she was the only woman in the group.

When the Niagara College Baking and Pastry Arts program coordinator was inducted into the Canadian Culinary Federation Honour Society on June 15 during their national conference in Saskatoon, that seemed to be the proudest part for her.

“There I was with four guys, and that was the coolest feeling – that I was the only female,” said O’Donnell, who’s been teaching at Niagara College since 2015.

“What we do isn’t easy, and we do a lot of sacrificing and it is stressful, but the rewards at the end surpass all of that.”

O’Donnell, who admits to being a stickler for the rules, says structure has played an important role in her career as a pastry chef. She runs a tight kitchen at Willow Cakes and Pastries, her Niagara-on-the-Lake patisserie and, when she’s teaching at Niagara College, she expects her students to show up dressed properly and ready to learn.

She says whether it’s at the front of a class at the College’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake, judging at a pastry chef competition somewhere around the world, or in the kitchen of one of the many hotels she’s worked at, being a “hard-nosed chef” has been instrumental in the success she’s enjoyed over the past 44 years.

The Canadian Culinary Federation is Canada’s largest federally chartered professional chefs’ organization. Its goal is to unite chefs and cooks across Canada in a common dedication to professional excellence.

Each year, a handful of chefs from across the country are inducted into the Canadian Culinary Federation Honour Society. Inclusion is granted only to those who have made significant contributions and shown dedication to the Culinary Federation, as well as demonstrated a lifetime passion and service to the culinary profession.

Canadian Culinary Federation national president Ryan Marquis said, “Catherine was chosen because of her many years of involvement with culinary teams, branch involvement, community involvement [and] her dedication to her students at the college.”

“I can tell you [that] professionally and personally, Catherine fits that criteria and it was our honour to induct her into our Culinary Federation Honour Society.”

n 2016, O’Donnell was part of the coaching crew behind Junior Culinary Team Canada, which captured a gold and silver medal at the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany. She also coached the senior team.

Later, she earned the title of Certified International Judge from the World Association of Chefs’ Societies, recognizing her as a senior-level culinary professional with advanced judging experience.

O’Donnell said her next goal is to become a published author. She’s in the process of penning her first book, which will document her rewarding career of being a chef.

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