In 1987, Bob Miller was a student at the Holland College Culinary Institute serving salad to passing customers. One of them stopped by his station and took a bite.
“What’s in this salad?” said the customer. As Miller thought about the question, another man strode up beside him.
“See, you start with some olive oil and dressing,” the man said, and continued on to rattle off the recipe without skipping a beat.
Five years later, Miller was an instructor at that same college. He brought a professional letter he’d written for the man to proofread.
“Well, it’s good,” said the man. “But, some of this grammar, I would not use.”
The man was Barney Bree, who from 1985-94 was chair of the Hospitality and Tourism department at Holland College and from 1994-95 the director of the Culinary Institute. He died Feb. 27 at the Kings Memorial Hospital.
Bree was a pillar of strength in the hospitality business, said Miller, a chef at the Holland College Culinary Institute of Canada.
“For a man of his profile, he always liked to engage with the students on a grassroots level. He’d support everyone from the head chefs down to the dishwashers. Money was tight back in the day, but he’d beat down doors to make sure we had enough to work.”
Bree was always interested in the industry, said Hans Anderegg, also a chef at the Holland College Culinary Institute of Canada. He worked hard to promote the institute in the province, across the country and on the world stage. His efforts led to the establishment of a bursary for culinary students, Anderegg said.
“He always said we should do what we could, even when money was tight. He’d be out there in the trenches, raising money alongside us. He was always there for the students.”
“When most people were serving fish and chips on the Island, he built the (culinary) students up to where they could compete on an international level." - Hans Anderegg
Bree’s knowledge of cooking was beyond anyone’s in the mid 80s, when tourism on P.E.I. was in its fledgling stages, Anderegg said.
“He helped make P.E.I. the place for tourism. When most people were serving fish and chips on the Island, he built the students up to where they could compete on an international level. He made sure students learned how to serve, as well as how to cook.”
He says his opinion of Bree didn’t change between when he was his student and when they worked together professionally.
“He was quiet and stern on the surface, but kind and approachable underneath. He was always very genuine and you could see in his eyes he took a real interest in what people had to say.”
Holland College president Brian McMillan said Bree provided leadership to The Culinary Institute of Canada from 1985 to 1995.
“He was instrumental in establishing the international reputation of The Culinary Institute with his innovative approach to culinary education, and his influence continues to resonate throughout the College to this day. Many of our Holland College staff remember Barney fondly.”
Bree was also active in competitive swimming in Ontario and P.E.I., was past president of Swim P.E.I. and a long-time director of Swimming Canada, and a widely respected judge in the sport. He was also active in sport parachuting in Ontario and P.E.I.