September 25, 2020

By WENDY CZAKO-MAH

As many of us were nestled in our warm beds on Oct. 6, first-year culinary students from Conestoga College were up in the wee hours of the morning preparing pancakes and sausages for the 31st annual Oktoberfest Family Breakfast in Waterloo Public Square.

“I got here at 5:30 I was working last night and pretty much had a three-hour nap and then came here,” said Jessy Perez, a student in the culinary program.

Others, including chef Philippe Saraiva, had to set up in the rain the night before and arrived at four that morning.

“It has to be fresh,” Saraiva said.

When asked if this was a requirement for the program, Philippe said, “It’s volunteering, but they don’t have a choice.” He then chuckled and added, “It is completely volunteer and the students love to do it, to give back to the community.”

Elyse Lapara, who’s in the one-year chef training program, said, “It’s so much fun and all our chefs are awesome, we learn a lot from them.”

Many students come back after graduating, including ones who have gone on to open successful businesses.

Saraiva, naturally charismatic, went out of his way to entertain those who had been standing in line for almost an hour. Having one of his students stand a metre or two away, he tossed a pancake that she had to catch with a tray. After succeeding, he had her step back so he could throw another one, repeating the process until she missed.

This free event had students flipping and cooking approximately 20,000 pancakes and 8,000 sausages.  Local radio celebrities served them along with syrup and Wellesley apple cider.

Saraiva, the program co-ordinator, has made pancakes at the event for 15 of the 31 years it has been held.

Erin Brown, a second-year student in culinary management, said, “My co-op just finished on Friday, so I was able to come. It’s just one of these fun things that I just love to do.”

Although the event was free, patrons were asked to bring a non-perishable food item for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.