Catering crew to show community how campus cooks

Drew Verdam is looking for the Wow! factor.

The University’s executive chef, he will lead a team from Food Services in the Battle of the Hors D’oeuvres, April 26 at the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts – and he’s in it to win.

“I want people to know that we do high-quality work here,” says Verdam. “It’s a big local event that allows us to get our name out in the community.”

A benefit for Big Brothers Big Sisters Windsor Essex, it will feature a dozen competitors from the hospitality industry each preparing a single dish to impress the guests. Verdam doesn’t want to give away too much, but will say the University is showcasing fresh local lake perch as a main ingredient.

“You get to show off a little bit and do something that is different,” he says. “Demonstrate some skills you don’t necessarily get to show when you’re cooking cafeteria-style.”

This year’s event, with a theme of “Amuse your Bouche,” promises a new format. Rather than a gala banquet, it will take the form of a lounge party; patrons will work the room to sample local wines, catch up with friends, chat with the chefs, visit food stations, and vote for their favourites.

Verdam expects it to be a lot of fun.

“It’s a cocktail party atmosphere, so people get a chance to mingle,” he says. “It’s more communal than a sit-down dinner.”

Hayley Morgan, a development officer with Big Brothers Big Sisters Windsor Essex, shares his enthusiasm.

“People will have the opportunity to enjoy creative cuisine and celebrate what we think is a pretty terrific community organization,” she says. “But the essential aim remains an event with food, style, fun and fundraising for an important cause.”

Besides the hors d’oeuvres, the evening promises a silent auction, a diamond raffle, and entertainment by UWindsor music student Leah Harris. Tickets are $75 per person, available for purchase by calling 519-945-6232 or online at