A Niagara Foodies’ Hidden Gem for Over 30 Years – Benchmark Reopens!

Beyond the Plate: Unleashing Culinary Creativity at Niagara College


Niagara College’s Benchmark Restaurant, a cornerstone of the culinary program for over 30 years, has evolved to showcase the students’ academic experience while providing a hands-on learning opportunity. The restaurant’s recent revamp post-pandemic reflects a commitment to highlighting the culinary, tourism, and beverage programs, offering a unique dining experience for the college community, local visitors, and industry partners.


“As the restaurant reopens, it will continue to focus on a simple fixed-price lunch menu that changes with each term and season, offering not just a dining option but a journey through diverse food designs”

– Craig Youdale, Dean at Niagara College Culinary Services.



The thematic exploration revolves around connecting learned skills with the abundant offerings of the Niagara Region, spearheaded by Chef Justin Downes, emphasizing seasonal ingredients and hospitality, service, and beverage excellence.

“Real-world scenarios during service at Benchmark prepare our students for the challenges of the culinary industry, instilling a sense of urgency, effective communication, time management, and the ability to handle pressure. The restaurant’s service area becomes a crucial training ground, replicating the fast-paced nature of the industry and providing students with a more authentic experience”

– Craig Youdale, Niagara College Culinary Dean.



Student feedback on the reopening of Benchmark for lunch service has been overwhelmingly positive, with students thrilled about the addition of lunch service. The restaurant has been in full swing for over a year, hosting events like Final Exam Lunches, Stand Up Receptions, and Bakery Pop Up Cafes, creating a dynamic and engaging learning environment for students.



In terms of skill development, the program not only focuses on culinary expertise but also hones students’ business skills, recognizing the high-pressure nature of the hospitality industry. The Benchmark space serves as a platform for students to understand the complexities of restaurant operations, customer interactions, and the nuances of providing value and meeting guest expectations.





Niagara College’s Culinary Program stands out from the crowd, offering a unique blend of cutting-edge facilities, world-class faculty, and a commitment to innovation, sustainability, and industry connectivity. The DJP campus boasts a diverse array of resources, including a vineyard, hopyard, vegetable production facilities, herb gardens, bee hives, tender fruit trees, and greenhouse technology. Such integration, coupled with operations like a brewery, winery, and distillery, creates an unparalleled learning environment, making Niagara College one of the most distinctive culinary education spots globally.



While the current restaurant concept will continue to evolve, the focus for Benchmark in the near future is on expanding lunch services in conjunction with academic events, Culinary Arts Café, and other initiatives. The dynamic nature of the culinary world keeps the door open for further evolution, ensuring that Niagara College’s Culinary Program stays at the forefront of culinary education.



Reserve your spot at Benchmark Restaurant and (re-)discover this amazing gem in our community: 



Check out the programs latest events, offerings, pop-ups, and more: 




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