Foodbuy recently had the privilege of engaging in an insightful conversation with Tony Heesterman, Executive Chef at the University of Victoria. Our discussion covered a wide range of topics, from industry challenges to emerging trends. His journey in the kitchen started at home with a goal to surpass his mom’s cooking, leading him to the chef’s training program at Carson Graham High School in North Vancouver. His father’s artistry in pottery and painting, drew him into the field, igniting a passion for creating dishes with creative freedom.Chef Tony

Chef Heesterman’s impressive culinary career spans BC’s finest establishments. From Pan Pacific Hotel to Finn’s Waterfront Restaurant. In 1991 he achieved the Torchbearer Award at Holiday Inn Hotel. He played a pivotal role at BC Place Stadium with Centerplate, showcasing his expertise in large-scale events. After a stint at Coast Hotels, he joined the University of Victoria in 2015, overseeing the various outlets listed below:

  • Cove Dining
  • Mystic Market
  • Biblio Café
  • Mac’s
  • Arts
  • Nibbles & Bites
  • Sci Café
  • Degrees Catering

In 2017, Tony had the opportunity to contribute to two LEED V4 Gold and Passive House projects, this included the building of Cheok’nien House and Sngequ House. (Design and construction of these new buildings meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold and Passive House standards, the most rigorous global building standards for sustainability and energy efficiency. Passive House design principles aim to reduce energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and maintenance and replacement costs through a higher-performing building envelope. LEED V4 is an internationally recognized, third-party rating system based on energy and environmental principles). Tony mentioned that being a part of the building committee during the planning phase was an incredibly fortunate opportunity. Tony’s involvement extended beyond the construction phase as he collaborated closely with the sustainability department, working on strategies to reduce the university’s carbon footprint and promote a more sustainable environment.

Chef TonyFoodbuy asked Chef Heesterman what some of the current challenges in the foodservice industry are. Chef Heesterman addressed some of the struggles of securing qualified culinary staff, which has been exacerbated in the aftermath of COVID-19. He also mentioned that balancing food costs amid rising prices is another hurdle. He highlighted the instrumental role of Foodbuy in managing those costs and ensuring competitive pricing, aiding in maintaining quality and affordability. His advice to fellow Foodbuy Members emphasizes leveraging available rebates and product offerings to curate cost-effective menus, ensuring competitive prices, and streamlined food costs.

“The foodservice industry,” Tony observes, “is witnessing a shift toward plant-based focus and sustainability, catering to the growing needs of the Vegan and vegetarian community.” Among students the demand for more sustainable, vegetarian, and vegan options is at the forefront. Being able to provide those options is something Chef Heesterman is actively pursuing.

We asked Chef Heesterman what has kept him motivated throughout his career.

“The satisfaction of positive feedback from customers, clients, and fellow chefs,” Tony shares, “keeps me inspired and motivated to continually strive for culinary excellence.”

When Tony looks back on his culinary journey, he emphasizes that patience and organization are key to his success. These qualities have served as pillars in his approach, in an industry that demands finesse.

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