…We create ideas.

Chefs have the amazing ability to multi-task, perform under pressure, solve problems, dance swiftly between cutting board and stove, and constantly beat the clock.  But most of all, chefs make ideas – from raw – happen.  In 2003, two experienced chef instructors had the idea for the kind of culinary school they wished they had gone to. In 2004, Northwest happened…on time, and on budget!  The surprise was that the students initiated the kind of positive change not even the founders had anticipated.  Northwest truly developed as a collaboration between teachers and learners, and continues to do so.

September 2003 – The Idea.

Tony Minichiello and Christophe Kwiatkowsky discuss the idea of building their own school.

Both from Montreal, Quebec. Each had trained at L’Institut de Tourisme et d’Hotelerie du Quebec and taught at Dubrulle Culinary Institute of Vancouver. Both owned successful businesses. Both complete their Provincial Instructor’s Diploma prior to opening Northwest. However, each pens his own strengths to the Northwest blueprint, acknowledging that the sum of their differences is greater than the vision of one. The name Northwest was chosen because it represents their own personal journey from Quebec to the Northwest, a frontier of new ideas, especially when it comes to food in North America.


December 2003 – Building the school.

A lease is signed on a closed down metal-fabrication shop.

Demolition begins the day after New Year, 2004. The school’s projected opening date was April 12, 2004 – less than 15 weeks away! Was it a little crazy? Absolutely. But cooks, as the French say, are debrouillards – jacks of all trades and great problem solvers. After four months of hard work, the deadline was met.

April 12, 2004 – The first class.

Northwest welcomes its first class of 12 students.

Barb Finley, a former Dubrulle student whose previous career had been as an education instructor at UBC, was brought on board to assist the chef instructors with honing their teaching craft. Northwest graduated all 12 students in late July. The very first graduation speeches emphasized gratefulness to the students for believing in the vision of this brand new school. Every speech since then opens with that same gratitude.

JUNE 2004

Marco Ropke joined Northwest as head pastry chef. In August, Chef Marco designed and helped build the pastry kitchen from scratch. Ian Lai, a colleague from Dubrulle, joined the faculty to complete the culinary team. By late 2004, Northwest gained accreditation from PCTIA.



Northwest quickly established a reputation for graduating very enthusiastic students with a “can-do” and “will-do” attitude, in many ways emulating the work ethic, confidence, and courage of their instructors. In late 2007, Marco Ropke left for Beijing to start up two Ritz-Carleton properties for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Tim Mulbauer, also a colleague from Dubrulle, became the new pastry chef. Barb Finley started Project Chef, a hands-on cooking program for school children, in which many of our graduates have participated. Warren Pahl joined the culinary team in 2009. In 2010 he also began working closely with Chef Tim to begin teaching pastry classes. By this time many Northwest graduates began to establish themselves in the industry, not only in higher professional positions, but also as successful entrepreneurs, and even as mentors and trainers for our graduates.

Adam Chandler, a graduate of our full-year program in 2005, joined Northwest as an assistant in the Pastry and Bread Making Program before leaving to open Beta-5 Chocolates. Adam quickly established himself and Beta-5 as one of the best chocolatiers in the world.

Taryn Wa, a 2006 graduate, eventually opened SavouryChef and established herself as one of the leading and fastest growing catering companies in Vancouver. Both have judged and guest lectured to our students about starting a business, emphasizing the importance of staying connected. Many of graduates have found success in their own way, in all sorts of kitchens, even their own. See more of their stories.


Curtis Webb joined the Northwest faculty and Lena Liu became the new manager and first point of contact at Northwest for prospective students. Tim Mulbauer moved to Saint John’s, New Brunswick to open East Coast BistroStacy Cherewyk became the new head instructor for Pastry and Bread Making.



In early 2014, co-founder Christophe Kwiatkowsky announced his retirement and became a Northwest Ambassador. The complete staff of Warren Pahl, Stacey Cherewyk, Curtis Webb, Lena Liu, and a returning Ian Lai, along with Jonathan Kinney – a 2008 Northwest graduate — joined Tony Minichiello as new co-owners of the school. The team, recognizing its diverse strengths, began a new era for Northwest.



The Facelift

The summer of 2015 was not one of vacation and rest, but quite the opposite. We re-designed many parts of the school to make the space more inviting and less (much less!) institutional. We also hire Michelle Fattore to work with Chef Stacy in the Pastry kitchen.


We even changed our uniform.



THe Push

There are two ways to expand and grow: one is by growing your space, the other is by using time. We opted for the latter, changing the quality of time used at Northwest. We’ve expanded our NON-PROFESSIONAL PROGRAMS while bring in fresh energy and minds in our PROFESSIONAL PROGRAMS.

In the fall, Chef Ian moved on to an exciting position with the Vancouver Food Bank. The school was fortunate to bring Chef Alana Peckham into the ranks. Her experience in the industry and passion for learning and teaching, are a welcome addition to the team.