BY CATARINA MUIA
Anyone who has eaten at Sheridan College’s Union Square knows that its food is not only tasty, but crazy and original. With contributions from students who work there and a little push from kitchen manager Adam Koch the Marquee, Coffee Loft and Union Burrito always have something special to offer.
Coming from Alberta, Koch, 33, has worked in the food industry since he was 14. He started out as a dishwasher, but he eventually found his passion in cooking and creating dishes.
“I used to just do this because I needed a job, and I was just paying bills, but at some point I just started to love it,” he said. “I kind of saw how you can get creative with it as opposed to just putting a burger on a bun.”
Along with discovering the creative aspect, Koch explained that his grandmother also had a big influence on his love for cooking and baking.
“I didn’t really used to do much. I would sit on the counter and kind of watch and she would show me all the different steps, so it was probably because of that, that I got a passion for it.”
In 2004 when he made his way to Toronto, he was working at high-end bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants such as Cadillac Lounge and Indian Motorcycle.
In April 2011 Koch visited Sheridan and played with his band. Afterward he was told by the operation’s senior manager, Dan Casey, that they were to be undergoing huge renovations at the Marquee.
“It was one of those things where I wasn’t looking for a new job. I was running a pub in Toronto,” said Koch.
The pub he worked at was close to home but he explained that the opportunity at Sheridan was big, “so I chose opportunity over convenience.”
Since being at Sheridan, Koch has let his creativity influence the food that him and the rest of the kitchen staff create.
“I’ve got a lot of experience, and I think what ends up happening is I draw bits and pieces from experiences I’ve had.”
He explained that he loves to fuse different cultures together, making something like “a burger with an Asian twist, or like poutine with butter chicken.”
Some of his most popular creations are the daily doughnuts sold at the Coffee Loft.
Although he usually isn’t the one coming up with the different flavours or decorating them, he explained that he decided he didn’t want just one feature doughnut.
He wanted to keep it interesting and saw that it gives those working in the kitchen another way to get creative and make something crazy every morning.
Amy Trachter, 26, has been working in the food industry for six years, but has only been at the Marquee as a kitchen supervisor for a little more than three months.
Having Koch as her boss, she said that working with him “is very entertaining.
“He’s very creative. He’s focused but so not focused at the same time. Whatever he makes, he makes it well.”
She said that by working with him, she’s really learned how to put twists into food that she never would have thought of before her time at Sheridan.
Trachter explained that having him as a boss hasn’t only been good for her, but believes he has a positive influence on the students who work for him.
“For a student environment, on one level, it’s a great way to learn because he’s so patient but he’ll throw you into the fire.
“He’s understanding if you don’t get it right the first time, but you do have to learn right from that. This is all about molding the students’ brains and teaching them life skills.”
Since the Marquee, Coffee Loft and Union Burrito are owned and run by the Sheridan Student Union, the goal was to make it so students do as much as possible.
Koch said that at the beginning, working with mainly students, “it started out as a fucking nightmare.”
He explained that the hardest part was that all of the students have a different career path, so it was difficult to engage them in their work.
“It was such an adjustment to make,” he said. Koch had to change his entire outlook on the job. He had to learn how to teach the skill and how to work with students’ attitudes.
Sean Coolahan, a 21-year-old first-year student in the Bachelor of Film and Television program, has been working at the Marquee as a line cook since September.
“He’s definitely an unorthodox boss,” he said.
“I remember when I first met him there wasn’t really an interview or anything. He just said ‘Show up on this day’.”
He explained that in past experiences, he hasn’t seen employees and their bosses have the type of relationship that Koch has with his employees.
“I definitely think you can tell there’s a relationship between a lot of the students and Adam and when you have a good relationship with your boss, you kind of want to stick around and keep working for them.”
For Koch, it’s important that the students are involved with the creative process of making the dishes and goods sold at the food services, and wants everyone to be as crazy with their ideas as possible.
“I don’t want to do boring stuff. I don’t want do the same thing as everyone else does, or else I want do it better. If I’m going do something everyone else does, I’m going do it the best, better than everyone else.”