Over at Ontario Hall, everything is new. Including Andrew DuHasky.
When Western’s newest student residence first opened to some 600 students last year, DuHasky was among the first to experience its state-of-the-art marché-style dining hall. And he’s loved every minute since his arrival.
“It’s so the right industry for me,” said DuHasky, the unit chef at Ontario Hall.
“I’m a good example in that I didn’t go right from high school to college for cooking. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and it (cooking) found me as I found it,” he continued.
DuHasky, 39, came to Western by way of a varied career, one that began in a warehouse, taking him to George Brown College for culinary arts, to cafeterias and a catering business in Toronto. He moved to London nearly a decade ago when his wife took a teaching job at Fanshawe College. Since, DuHasky has managed the cafeteria at Trojan Technologies, dabbled in the kitchen at Fanshawe, and then moved to Ontario Hall.
“I work with a lot of individuals here that have a lot of passion for what they do and they take a lot of pride in it,” he said, noting he inherited a fantastic team when he arrived. “It’s so great. When someone (in the kitchen or cafeteria) stands behind a counter, they don’t always get appreciation for how much they care for what they do, but they do.”
DuHasky sure cares. Gauging the enthusiasm and joy in his voice as he talks about what he does, the food he enjoys making, the food he enjoys eating, as well as the people he works with daily, it’s clear he’s in the right spot.
“I don’t have a favourite dish to make. My favourite dish to make is something I’ve had that’s crazy and different that I haven’t had before, and then I try and make it myself, and make it even better – which is how I started cooking professionally,” he said.
DuHasky ensures the interactive cooking stations in his kitchen feature ever-changing and appealing options inspired by international cuisines, as well as his own and others’ positive dining experiences. Recently, the kitchen offered Cuban sandwiches inspired by a food truck in Jon Favreau’s recent film, Chef.
When it comes to good eats, DuHasky strays from chain restaurants, keeping an eye out for independent locales around town where he feels he gets a more authentic dining experience, much like the one he strives to offer.
“As a chef, I feel it’s my responsibility to support the little guy,” he said, noting his current go-to is a restaurant in Aylmer called Hacienda Roadhouse, featuring an unassuming blend of Mexican and Mennonite cuisines.
And when it comes to his food philosophy, DuHasky sticks to the tried, tested and true.
“I don’t think the newest thing is the best thing. I think people of different cultures have been making awesome food for years, so I like to take not something that’s new and cutting edge, but maybe something in our culture that we don’t put a strong emphasis on, and put a spin on it. I love to take a traditional pierogi and stuff it with ingredients that a pierogi might not usually be stuffed with,” he explained.
And DuHasky has had the opportunity to attend various conferences, showcasing his approach to food and his culinary styles, impressing foodies across North America.
In July, he was invited by the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers to attend and participate in the annual Produce Marketing Associations’ annual Foodservice Conference in Monterey, Calif. There, he developed a recipe using locally grown produce, taking second place. Last year, he attended a conference in Massachusetts, taking home a People’s Choice award as well as second place.
“I really enjoy people. I’m a pleaser by nature so I like when people are happy. I like to make sure my guys have what they need to be successful and I’m very fortunate that I have a good crew,” DuHasky said of his current role.
“I’m so lucky, every day. They day Sysco doesn’t show up with all the food we need, the day four employees call in sick all in same shift, those are the days I like to take a minute and think about how fortunate I am that I was able to find this career because I thoroughly enjoy it.”