Chef enjoys fueling students' – culinary – adventure
By Adela Talbot
August 22, 2013
For more than two decades, Tim D’Souza’s kitchen creations have been known, both at home and abroad, for their quality blend of international flair and fresh, local ingredients.
Last August, students at Brescia University College had their first taste, when the only women’s university in Canada gained D’Souza, a renowned chef, as its food services manager. He revamped the school’s menu in no time, trading in traditional cafeteria meals for flavourful, seasonally inspired creations.
Brescia’s new dining facility, set to open with its new residence this fall, will feature a marché concept with interactive cooking stations where cooks will prepare food on the spot for students. D’Souza will be at the wheel of this new, state-of-the art facility.
“When I came in last year, I could have continued the old route they went with (in the kitchen), which was to buy a lot of semi-prepared products and finish the cooking and put it on a steam table,” he said. “But a week before school started last year, I switched all the menus.
“It was quite the task to take on. But it meant big changes for students and they were quite excited about it.”
The cooks under D’Souza had an adjustment period at the time, making lasagnas and other items from scratch instead of heating prepared ones. They also started offering two-to-three interactive meal options each week, instead of the usual one option. And students were thrilled.
“Brescia has a big focus on foods and nutrition,” D’Souza said, noting the Foods & Nutrition programs the school offers. “Students here are going to be very conscious about nutrition, so the menu had to reflect that.
“Our goal is to really have a certain appeal about what we do here and my goal is to have the reputation as having the best food on campus. I want our students to have something that’s unique, that they can be proud of and they can enjoy.”
D’Souza, 49, was raised on traditional, home-cooked meals that showcased French-Canadian and Portuguese flavours. He served as a chef abroad in Italy and England after going to culinary school at George Brown College and working in renowned, high-end restaurants, hotels and inns at home. His menu draws inspiration from the seasons, international cuisines and what is locally available. This approach ensures the best taste and greatest nutritional benefit, he said.
“Eating local is an important thing. It’s not just about being trendy. When you support your local farmer’s market, there’s less of a carbon footprint,” D’Souza explained.
“And when you eat food that’s from the land you live in, it tastes better. Your food breathes the same air you breathe and comes from the same ground. I’ve experienced that travelling,” he added, noting he can still remember the taste of a locally sourced tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella sandwich he regularly ate while working in Italy.
“In (the new facility), we’re not going with the traditional six-week menu cycle. We will have a general plan for each cooking station but we’re going to adapt to what’s available to the market and what’s seasonal.”
D’Souza moved to London roughly five years ago, working as the executive chef at the Idlewyld Inn. While at a previous executive chef post at Thornbury’s Mill Café, he received the following review from Toronto Life Magazine: “Stellar meals had become the norm at the Mill Café with D’Souza at the helm.”
Coming to Western and working at Brescia has been a pleasant change of pace, he said.
“It’s different. What I like and what I’ve enjoyed about it is being around the students and in the kind of environment where there’s people learning. There’s a real spirit that you sense. I went to university and I remember that sense of adventure.”
Originally from the Montreal area, D’Souza was raised in Ontario. He went to Trent University with the plan of studying politics and history. But his family’s tradition of good food quickly crept up on him.
“I went off to university and I just discovered I still had this huge passion for food and cooking. I was spending all my time cooking and organizing dinner parties, themed events, Italian food, Indian food, etc. I decided I wanted to cook, left university and went to George Brown College in Toronto,” he explained, adding he couldn’t be happier for making the choice.
At home with his wife and daughter, and at work with his staff and students, he’s enthusiastic about good, quality food.
“Do you want someone running your food service that eats to live, or lives to eat? I live to eat. I understand healthful eating but if you approach food as just sustenance, there’s no joy in there,” he said, smiling.
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