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Chef moves up the food chain
Joseph Szakacs climbs to the top of the kitchen hierarchy as the new executive chef of the Frobisher Inn

Thandie Vela
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 5, 2011

Almost 20 years after donning his first professional apron as a teenage apprentice at a large Toronto hotel, Joseph Szakacs has reached the top of the kitchen hierarchy, in Iqaluit.

NNSL photo/graphic

Joseph Szakacs is the new executive chef at the Frobisher Inn, in Iqaluit. - Terry McEachern/NNSL photo

Szakacs is the new executive chef of the capital's Frobisher Inn.

"The hierarchy of the kitchen is very military-esque," the Montreal native said, with his new title at the very top of that hierarchy. "It feels like a sense of accomplishment."

"You can't necessarily compare the structure or status (of Frobisher Inn) with a multi million dollar corporation but the same inherent responsibilities are there," he said.

"You have to provide a professional work environment, maintain proper food costs, proper labour costs, ordering of product, training of staff," Szakacs said, listing all his responsibilities as he aims to improve the work environment and increase efficiency of the Inn's food services.

"As executive chef, your responsibility is not only to manage the business properly, but to train the staff to follow in your footsteps. I try to get the best out of them so they can rise through the ranks and become an executive chef as well."

The chef was hired at Frobisher in February as executive sous chef, after 10 years in that role at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise near Banff, Alta. In June, the sous chef became aware that the past executive chef of Frobisher Inn's kitchen, Rick Cole, was moving on.

Frobisher management was not concerned when Cole, the top chef of a year, secured a position elsewhere because Szakacs was already shining as second in command, general manager Paul Sherman said. "So we knew the kitchen was in great hands."

"You could tell he was ready to take on the next challenge," Sherman said, praising the chef's plate presentation and work ethic. "His experience and what he did on a day-to-day basis spoke for itself.

Szakacs took over a menu that Cole had created "but put his own flair and spin on things," Sherman said. "He has his own unique flair to everything."

"Joe has put his stamp on things and the business keeps getting better and better," Sherman said, noting the hotel is doing more off-site catering in addition to the food services on site.

The chef leads a staff of 15, running Frobisher's formal restaurant the Gallery Dining Room, the small cafe Caribrew, and dinner-only bar-lounge Storehouse Bar and Grill.

As Szakacs recalled childhood memories of sitting around the dinner table with his grandmother, mother and father, who is Hungarian, he said his passion for food and creating meals because he enjoys it and it's a part of his heritage.

"We ate a lot of traditional western European cuisine from Hungary, like goulash, that kind of rustic traditional European diet."

Szakacs sees the same pride in culture that he has, in his new community as well.

"The people here are really friendly and proud to be Inuk and proud of their culture," he said. "I feel really privileged to be here."

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