Culinary Director, F&B
Chef Chris Zielinski is the Culinary Director for restaurants and catering where he has worked since 2009. He currently oversees a staff of six sous chefs, 55 cooks and 22 stewards. A large part of his job includes menu and recipe creation for the quick service outlets at Air Canada Centre and BMO Field. The menus are created on fan feedback and designed with the individual tastes of hockey, basketball and soccer fans in mind. It is Chef Zielinski's job to ensure we are meeting the challenge of exciting our fans while keeping current with culinary trends.
Chef Zielinski was first inspired by his grandmother's farm and table cooking in Northern Michigan. In 1983 he moved from Michigan to Toronto where he worked his first job as a busboy, exposing him to the hospitality industry. His interest quickly turned to cooking so he attended and completed the culinary management program at George Brown College. Upon graduating, he was hired by the then up and coming Chef Susur Lee, who had just opened his first restaurant, Lotus.
In 1991, Chef Zielinski was named head chef at Tippler's restaurant and Now magazine's Chef of the Year. He has also worked as the executive chef for the National Ballet School, Mercer St. Grill, YYZ Restaurant and Wine Bar, the prestigious Ultra Supper Club and even ran his own catering company (Culinary Productions).
His approach to cooking is rooted in a quest for culinary knowledge. "Even the best teachers and leaders never stop learning. The challenge of feeding 18,000 fans on any given day is a never ending study in planning and execution with a sole focus of exciting every fan. Being able to work with the finest ingredients on the market, while working alongside such a talented team of chefs and cooks, makes everyday a new adventure," he says.
Executive Sous Chef
Chef Paul Thomas is the executive sous chef at Air Canada Centre where he oversees much of the operational demands of this dynamic Food & Beverage environment.
After attending George Brown College in 1989 for the culinary arts program, Chef Thomas worked as an apprentice at Biagio Restaurant and Skydome. He then returned to George Brown College in 1995 for the Italian culinary arts program, which included a stage in the Michelin Star Restaurant San Domenico in the heart of Italy. Following the return from Italy, Chef Thomas worked at luminary Toronto restaurants, Rosewater Supper Club, Lakes Bar and Grill, Boston Club and Il Posto before becoming a member of the opening team at Air Canada Centre.
Chef de Cuisine, Restaurants & Catering
Chef Kris Lewis grew up in the Village of Elora where she started out in the industry at age 13 as a prep cook and dishwasher in a fine dining establishment. After attending post secondary school for business management and accounting for two years, she decided to follow her passion for food and moved to Toronto to attend George Brown Culinary School. Within a few short months, she acquired a job at the CN Tower where she worked in the catering department and eventually moved to the pastry department.
In 1999 she joined MLSE in the pastry department and worked her way up through the ranks in many different departments from pastry to butchery, line service and finally to catering, which resulted in a promotion to catering chef de cuisine in 2008. Chef Lewis is a graduate of culinary management, baker's management and patissier. She also holds Red Seal for Journeyman Cook, Baker and Patissier. Chef Lewis oversees a multi- facetted department, produces meals for the NHL and NBA, referees, players wives lounge, board of directors, executive wives, alumni, concession production, oasis, gondolas and media, amongst many other duties. Her skills in organization and attention to detail for either in-house or off-site function management have quickly become a great asset to MLSE.
When it comes to all things sweet, Chef Walter Arruda (a.k.a. Sweet Wally) is your man. With a passion for sweets, Chef Arruda is a baking connoisseur. This Toronto native graduated from George Brown College pastry program, as well as the Culinary Institute of America in New York, where he gained the knowledge necessary for creating delectable treats. His 18 years of experience includes working at a Portuguese bakery (where he started), Boardroom Catering of Canada, King Edward Hotel, Fairmont Royal York Hotel, L'Hôtel and now Air Canada Centre where he has worked for the past 13 years as a pastry chef. His team of seven pastry cooks also prepares the desserts for our three clubs, Real Sports Bar and Grill and e11even restaurant. With his love for sweets, it is no wonder Chef Arruda lives by the motto "Sugar is fuel, chocolate is medicine, pastry is art and dessert is love."
Chef de Cuisine, Platinum Club
Chef Jason Bailey is the Chef de Cuisine at the Platinum Club restaurant, a luxurious fine dining restaurant inside Air Canada Centre.
Chef Bailey moved to Toronto to attend the culinary program at George Brown College. Once his program was successfully completed, he started his restaurant career at the CN Tower. When Air Canada Centre opened its doors in January 1999, Chef Bailey quickly found an apprentice position working in the Platinum Club. His attention to detail and organization allowed him to move around to the many areas inside Air Canada Centre, including all three restaurants, catering and butchery. He took full advantage of the seasonal winter work by accepting summer positions at Centro, Zucca and Biffs. To further challenge himself, he went overseas and worked a four month stage at The Fat Duck. Shortly after, Chef Bailey accepted a sous chef position at MLSE for the Hot Stove Club. After proving himself there, he quickly moved over to the Air Canada Club and now to the Platinum Club.
Chef de Cuisine, Air Canada Club
Born and raised in Owen Sound, Chef McMeekin has enjoyed all the luxuries of growing up next to the food he was eating. Family hikes, fishing and learning to forage for his own food were past times bringing him closer to his aspiration of becoming a chef.
Starting in a kitchen at 13, he quickly learned this was where he belonged. After working with Chef Ken Hilge, a master butcher and one of Canada's few qualified Master Chefs, Chef McMeekin started traveling around neighbouring towns to see what was available in the culinary field. He apprenticed at the prestigious Grosvenor's of Southampton, under former Michelin Chef Paul Johnston, attended George Brown College for culinary and did stages for some of Toronto's Top Chefs. He has worked at Ultra Supper Club and Mildred's Temple Kitchen, where after one year he was named Sous Chef. He now resides as Chef de Cuisine of the Air Canada Club where he brings all his experience to every dish served.
Chef de Cuisine, Hot Stove Club
Chef Kellen Crumb's aspirations to become a chef started at a very young age. Brought up in a home where cooking was always a family event and food was more than just for substance, becoming a chef was a dream supported by his whole family. He started out his restaurant career as a dishwasher before attending school. It was through an externship at George Brown College (in 2007) that Chef Crumb first came to Air Canada Centre as an apprentice line cook in the Platinum Club. Over the next six seasons, he progressed from apprentice to lead cook, to chef de partie and finally, chef de cuisine. Throughout his time at Air Canada Centre, he has worked in the Air Canada Club and Hot Stove Club kitchens, as well as cooking for the MLSE Board of Directors, Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.
Through his culinary journey, Chef Crumb has been fortunate to study and refine his skills and knowledge under very talented chefs like Brad Long, Mark McEwen and Rob Gentile. With his passion for quality food and his extensive culinary knowledge and experience, Chef Crumb creates extraordinary dishes for all to enjoy.