Meet Gander’s chef whose cafeteria menu has high school students salivating in line

When the recess bell rings at Gander Collegiate, Chief Josh Boyde knows the rush is about to begin. Dozens of teenagers line up for their snacks in anticipation of what the chef is cooking, the aroma of hot cinnamon and cooked dinner having wafted through the school all morning.

“I eat here every day, it’s so good,” said high school senior Gavin Burry. “The sweet potato fries? I have gone wild. It was crazy.

The Chef Josh brand is well known around Gander, as Boyde does private catering, offers a meal kit pickup service and runs the restaurant at the local golf course.

Boyde said parents asked him to manage the school’s cafeteria, which did not reopen after it was closed during the pandemic.

Although Boyde agreed, he quickly discovered that running a school food service was not like owning a restaurant. Strict nutritional guidelines must be adhered to.

“It took several weeks of planning,” Boyde said. “I had to go back and forth with the dietician from Central Health who is affiliated with the school board. Back and forth and we agreed on a menu.”

Since the menu was approved and the cafeteria reopened in late October, Boyde said, the service has been a big hit.

These pretzels are making students at Gander Collegiate thirsty. (Leigh Anne Power/CBC)

“We have had a great reception from students so far. We welcome well over 100 students a day via the canteen service and around 120 for lunch.”

The only problem with the canteen? The queue is too long to be served during the 20-minute recess period, with students still standing behind the cafeteria door long after the third period bell rings.

Manager Greg Drover said he hopes Chef Josh will set up a pre-order system to avoid long lines.

“It’s something that, as a new business within the school, they’ll have to think about,” Drover said.

“They have some of the new bagels there and cookies and so on, and of course the smell goes through the building, which is great. But it’s a bit difficult in that regard. You should have been here last Friday when they had turkey dinner. It was quite a challenge to stay focused.

gander collegiate baked goods
Some of Boyde’s baked goods at Gander Collegiate. (Leigh Anne Power/CBC)

Boyde said the turkey dinner was a surprisingly big hit.

“We made pizza and we made turkey dinner. And we sold more turkey dinner to teenagers than we did pizza.”

Other popular items on Boyden’s rotating menu include pulled pork sandwiches, mac and cheese, chicken, and waffles.

“Our stuffed pretzels are one of our biggest sellers. And then next would be our cinnamon rolls.”

One factor that Boyde tries to keep the same among all dishes is affordability.

“We priced it between the price of five dollars and $10,” he said. “We try to keep all of our items within this price range. Most of our recreational items are less than five years old.”

Students like Natalie Shehada appreciate that.

“It’s really good and it’s really cheap for a good meal. I like the macaroni and cheese, but I can’t wait for the lasagna.”

“We haven’t had this for a long time, so it’s very exciting,” said fellow player Burry. “We didn’t even have a cafeteria before, so everyone is going crazy about it. It’s like a candle for us.”

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