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Selkirk College’s Scholars Dining Room Enters New Era

School of Hospitality & Tourism instructor Mindy Fair has returned to her roots to help mentor the industry’s future where she is now overseeing the Scholars Dining Room component of Selkirk College’s programming. — Photo courtesy Selkirk College

In a career that spans more than two decades, Mindy Fair has helped open dozens of recognizable restaurants both near and far. Now back in the surroundings that ignited her passion for the hospitality industry, the rookie Selkirk College instructor is taking on a new challenge as she grips the reins of an essential training ground.

Scholars Dining Room on Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus is now taking reservations for four themed weeks of dinner dates that showcase the blossoming talents of students in the School of Hospitality & Tourism. Scrumptious fine dining plates and top-notch service are the assignment as learners in the Resort & Hotel Management Program, Professional Cook Program, the Post-Grad Hospitality Management Program and the Post-Grad Culinary Management Program apply their knowledge, skills and training.

“Scholars is important for students because it gets them into the public and out of their comfort zone,” says the 38-year-old. “I was so shy when I started in this industry at 15, but it didn’t take long for my personality to explode. It’s extremely important in hospitality, but it can be a learning curve for many students.”

Fair’s first restaurant job, bussing tables at the Hume Hotel, came just as she entered high school. Quickly taken by the high-paced energy at the historic downtown landmark, by the time Fair was 16 she was soaking in knowledge working alongside legendary Hume catering manager Greg Schlosser.

After graduating from L.V. Rogers Secondary, Fair had sights set on a post-secondary avenue aimed towards law school. Taking a year to ponder her next step, Fair quickly discovered that the path forward was the one she was already on. 

“When I looked around the restaurant, I realized that I loved it,” she says. “I have so much fun every time I come to work, I meet so many people, you get tips, you get all these different experiences. I wanted to go further in hospitality and when I started to dig into what the Selkirk College program had to offer, it was all right in my hometown.”

After graduating from the Resort & Hotel Management Program in 2005, Fair sought a big city experience and landed in Calgary. With a fresh formal education and a solid resume of experience behind her, Fair was hired on the spot at ultra-hip Earls in the city’s downtown.

“They took me through the craziest training I have ever been through in any corporate setting, which was beautiful,” Fair says, emphasizing the importance of lifelong learning. “It was an intense week where you had to come home and do homework so you can write tests. They took it so seriously and I was automatically hooked.”

Within two months, Fair was the lounge/bar manager overseeing a budget of $1.2 million in inventories per week. She was the youngest lounge/bar manager in the burgeoning Earls’ corporate empire and at the age of 23 was flown to Denver, Colorado to help open a new three-story restaurant in that city’s downtown.

Eyes opened to the unlimited possibilities in the world of hospitality and a new interest in helping open restaurants, Fair’s homegrown work ethic and thirst for knowledge continued to provide exciting opportunities after she moved on from Earls. While still in Calgary, she helped open the new Stampede Casino, several Ric’s Grill locations, and a $3 million combo steak house and Italian restaurant in the funky Eau Claire neighbourhood.  

The last stop before returning to her hometown was with Moxies, another Canadian-based premium brand that puts focus on high quality service. Working out of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Fair launched the chain’s catering arm and was a valued member of the corporate team.

Fair returned to Nelson five years ago to work with locally-based Black Sheep Restaurant Group that owns Yum Son, Cantina Del Centro and Broken Hill in Nelson’s downtown. This past August, Fair returned to the Selkirk College classrooms where she is now passing on her considerable experience and passion to a new generation of hospitality leaders.

After handling the Scholars component of the program since 2016, veteran industry powerhouse and Selkirk College instructor David MacGillvray handed the keys to Fair after the fall 2021 semester ended this past December. Following in the footsteps of both MacGillvray and her former instructor Harry Pringle, Fair is excited for the semester ahead.

“Both Harry and David left some pretty big shoes to fill, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure everything runs as smooth as possible,” says Fair. “It’s great that I can still reach out to both of these wonderful mentors if I need to bombard them with questions. This is fun though and it’s my wheelhouse, now I get to open up a restaurant every semester!”

With four different themes, Scholars will be open on Thursday/Friday throughout the semester that includes: February 3 and 4 (Taste of Asia), February 10 and 11 (Taste of Italy), February 17 and 18 (Taste of India) and March 17 and 18 (Taste of Paris). All four-course menus are priced at $36 per person.

“It’s a classroom setting and a safe space for students to have the opportunity to learn,” Fair says. “Guests who come to Scholars need to be a little more understanding and patient in this setting, but they also know students are striving to provide that wonderful service experience for people. Combined with our fantastic culinary students, it’s a great night out.”

Located at Mary Hall on Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus, guests can expect all current COVID-19 dining protocols to be in place for an evening out. Scholars runs five different seatings with reservations required by calling (250) 505-1395 or by visiting https://selkirk.ca/scholars-dining-room