We live in a culture that glorifies gossip, from celebrity tabloids and reality TV to the rumour mill in our own personal circles at school, work, home and on social media.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

OAKLAND, Calif. – In what has become a staple of summer television, scores of athletic folks run an obstacle course that looks like a cross between a playground on steroids and the inner workings of a pinball machine.

Published in Faith
November 9, 2012

Real to reality TV love

“Please come to the altar to renew your vows with your wedding rings,” said our parish priest.

My parents looked at each other, and then to the rest of our extended family, with a mix of horror and amusement. It was their 20th wedding anniversary ceremony, and they forgot to bring their wedding rings.

In a flash, my aunt found an impromptu ring to fit my dad’s pinky finger, while I handed my mom my diamond gold ring. And like two teenagers up to no good, my mom and dad scurried up to the front of the church, laughing at the situation as they joined other couples from our parish.

Some of the couples celebrated their 10th anniversary, while one couple celebrated their 80th. The renewal of the vows ceremony was simple and beautiful. The couples posed for pictures and then celebrated with a delightful potluck lunch of sandwiches, a delicious wedding sheet cake and other desserts.

This heart-warming image is a stark contrast to the very popular world of reality TV weddings. The bride spends hours at a designer store trying to find the perfect princess dress for $10,000. This is followed by a trip to Cartier for the most ostentatious necklace to match the bedazzled 24-karat engagement ring. The bride and groom argue over the wedding cake, but the bride chooses the most lavish one. Then scenes of the reception hall filled with ice sculptures and martini bars transition back and forth with that of dancing guests. For the grand finale, a dollar sign with six or seven figures usually pops up. The unspoken rule: the higher the price tag, the more successful the wedding.

I learned more about celebrating love in the span of a two-hour renewal ceremony than the countless hours I have spent guiltily watching reality wedding shows. My mom glowed through the entire renewal ceremony, despite forgetting her wedding band. This completely contrasted with a reality TV bride who refused to walk into the church for two hours because the florist sent the wrong bouquet.

I love waking up in the morning and finding my parents sitting at the breakfast table casually talking and laughing. When they have an argument, they are eventually willing to forgive one another. Even with hectic schedules, they attend Mass every Sunday to celebrate and reflect on the life they share together.

Marriage is not perfect and it is definitely not simple. But they are committed to each other and to the vows they shared in front of God and their family 20 years ago. And their wedding cost only a fraction of the average reality TV wedding.

My mom can’t recall the location of her wedding dress. My dad’s wedding ring no longer fits. But the night my mom’s car had a flat tire in the pouring rain during Hurricane Sandy, my dad immediately stopped cooking dinner and drove to the rescue. He gave her a hand to hold, an umbrella to shield her from the storm and piece of mind that she would never be alone through any test God might send their way. 

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

BRAMPTON, ONT. - A group of Brampton high school students are finding out if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen — and away from the cameras.

Rogers TV is going into the kitchen at Brampton’s Cardinal Leger Secondary School where hospitality and tourism students star in a new reality TV series, Cardinal’s High School Cafe. The show features Grade 12 students operating all aspects of an upscale bistro, and it’s not just the kitchen that gets heated.  

The show first aired on Sept. 3, the opener of a six-episode season that features mainly five students, one per episode, and the challenges and struggles they encounter on the job and with each other. Episode six is the season finale where the students cook at their principal’s house for administrators. It airs Oct. 8.

“I want to keep the suspense, but all sorts of things go wrong on that episode,” said Kerry Greco, the show’s community producer and the school’s hospitality and tourism teacher.  

Greco, after 20 years experience in the hospitality and tourism industry, including owning her own pub and restaurant, started teaching English when she first entered the education field. But when she realized that tourism and hospitality would be offered, she wanted to make students aware of the opportunities available to them.

She had approached Rogers about giving students a chance to show off their culinary skills, which landed students the gig of cooking demonstrations on daytime. Then Greco pitched the idea of reality TV.

“Students who are not always successful in the traditional academic environment can really thrive in the hospitality program,” Greco said.

The first student to be featured on the show, Chris Kelloway, discovered the joy of cooking at age 10.
In Grade 10, he enrolled in the Hospitality and Tourism Specialist High Skills Major program and stayed until Grade 12.

“I just had a passion for cooking and putting all my creativity into dishes I had made,” he said.

At the bistro, Kelloway and the students in the program served students, faculty and local community members, including seniors from a nearby residence.

Greco tapped into funds available for students enrolled in the Specialist High Skills Major in hospitality and tourism, and that’s how the cafe, equipped with an industrial kitchen, was built.

“They learn what it is to actually serve in the exact same manner that they would if they were working in a high-end restaurant,” Greco said, a lesson that includes dealing with conflict in the kitchen.

But Kelloway’s favourite aspect of the experience is how they “all co-existed together in one team” to ensure “customers had a great experience.” He has no regrets.

The biggest challenge the students faced, running a fast-paced restaurant, remains the same whether or not they were on camera, said Greco.

“There’s always challenges with making sure that the food is executed to the tables properly and the service is executed properly.”

But the cameras did cause additional stress.

“The best part of the program is that it forces students to really be the star of their own life.

“If you’re there and you’re on camera doing the show, you’re accountable for everything you do,” Greco said.

Off-camera, one of Greco’s past students went on to attend Chef Gordon Ramsay’s culinary academy in London that offers a Cordon Bleu diploma. And since filming season one of the show between February and June, his last semester at Cardinal Leger, Kelloway has graduated and is now beginning his career in culinary management at George Brown College.

“My most treasured story, the very first graduate from the program was the first from her entire family to graduate from high school.

“And I think that’s why the program is there, because she was able to visualize the success that she could have in a very real way,” Greco said.

The bistro is open every Friday at the school for all three lunches, with quality meals such as New York steak on the menu for about $7 or $8.

Cardinal’s High School Cafe airs Monday nights at 11 p.m.

Published in Youth Speak News