Bonnie Stern (New ’69) is one of Canada’s most popular food personalities. She is founder of the Bonnie Stern School of Cooking in Toronto, which she opened and operated from 1973 to 2011. She has studied and taught cooking around the world, authored 12 bestselling cookbooks, hosted three national cooking shows and appears regularly on various television and radio shows across Canada. Bonnie Stern is the recipient of many awards, including ones from the Toronto Culinary Guild, the Ontario Hostelry Institute, Cuisine Canada. Most notably, she is the recipient of the 2007 Premier’s Award. Bonnie Stern’s Essentials of Home Cooking won the coveted International Association of Culinary Professionals’ award.
Describe yourself in 50 words or less.
Here’s my elevator speech:
Bonnie is the award winning author of 12 cookbooks, including Friday Night Dinners. She writes weekly in the National Post and had a cooking school and shop in Toronto from 1973 to 2011. She leads culinary tours to Israel and hosts a unique book club where authors actually attend and dinner is included. She is the recipient of the 2007 Premier’s Award.
What was New College like when you came?
University was like a new world for us. New College was great because it was easier to find our way around and get to know people. We were living at home so it was harder to meet people and get used to everything. In those days, if you had a great university where you lived, it was rare you went away to school.
What is your fondest memory of your time at New College?
I was very shy and insecure and extremely quiet in tutorials. But I didn’t know that anyone noticed that. One day at the end of the year I answered a question and everyone clapped! Needless to say – I never answered another question!
How did your academic and social experience at New College prepare you for life and your career?
When I went to university I thought I was going to be a librarian because I loved literature and loved to organize things. After I finished my undergraduate degree I had the confidence to do something more unusual and artistic.
The only thing I liked to do besides read was cook, so I decided to go to chef’s school – and then go back and become a librarian. My parents had a fit. At that time – in the early seventies – no one could really imagine a future in cooking, the Food Network, cookbooks, magazines and everything that has happened since then.
Graduating from U of T gave me the confidence to do something unconventional. I ended up going to George Brown College and completing a two-year food management course and finding a career that I loved. I was one of GBC’s first university grads.
Eventually, I felt I had something to offer people and became more outgoing. I gained the confidence to teach cooking because I felt I was helping others to have a better life – helping them with nutrition, helping them understand how easy it is to cook if you know the basics, the pleasure derived from cooking good food for family and friends.
Who had the most influence on your career?
So many people have helped me in my career, but I always go back to my parents, who taught me the meaning of being a decent, kind person – and that the harder you work the more luck you have. My parents were really wonderful people.