Kitchener-Waterloo

Stratford hotel owner launches scholarship for emerging BIPOC chefs

Stratford Chefs School has launched a scholarship to support Black and Indigenous people and people of colour who would like to get into the culinary industry.

Lack of diversity in the culinary industry has been an issue for a long time, says Jennifer Birmingham

Stratford Chefs School has launched a scholarship to support Black and Indigenous people and people of colour who would like to get into the culinary industry. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Stratford Chefs School has launched a scholarship to support Black and Indigenous people and people of colour who would like to get into the culinary industry.

"There aren't a lot of Michelin starred chefs that are women or that are of any ethnicity," said Jennifer Birmingham, the owner of The Bruce Hotel in Stratford.

Birmingham is funding the Bruce Hotel Scholarship for Emerging BIPOC Chefs.

She came up with the idea for a scholarship after reflecting on the Black Lives Matter movement and asking herself how she could support the BIPOC community more.

She says a lack of diversity has been an issue in the culinary and hospitality industry for a long time.

"I certainly don't think that what I am doing is going to solve the problems throughout the entire industry, but I really started to look at what some of the roadblocks are for diversity in hospitality, particularly in luxury and fine dining," said Birmingham.

"One of the roadblocks in a lot of industries is education, particularly the funding of education."

'A lot of racism'

Elvis Ellison has experienced racism in the industry. He owns Ellison's Bistro in Kitchener and says he faced many barriers while working at restaurants in his early career.

"I went through a lot of racism simply because, in a lot of places I worked, I was the only Black chef in the kitchen," said Ellison.

"There's a lot of underlying racism. They don't tell you that they don't like you. They just show you by the actions that are there."

He thinks supporting Black youth interested in being a chef through education is an important step, as is mentorship for Black chefs opening their own restaurants.

Birmingham encourages other people who can show support to the BIPOC community to do so.

"If everyone in my position stepped up in the same way, there'd be hundreds if not thousands of positions available for people that might not have had the opportunity before so," said Birmingham.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julianne Hazlewood is a multimedia journalist who's worked at CBC newsrooms across the country as a host, video journalist, reporter and producer. Have a story idea? julianne.hazlewood@cbc.ca

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