College of Guelph rated #1 for campus meals in Canada (four images)

Maclean’s annual study found that 94 percent of students are satisfied with campus food

Move over Canadian schools, Maclean’s magazine just rated the University of Guelph’s food the best campus food in the country.

Spinach and artichoke stuffed portobello mushroom caps, steak with garlic sautéed mushrooms, Moroccan roast lamb, Japanese buddha bowl are just a handful of items you will find on campus sifting through their menus that contain vegan, halal and gluten-free options.  

The annual survey found that 94 per cent of students in the university are either very satisfied or satisfied with their food.

The executive director of hospitality services at the university, Ed Townsley, says while there is obviously a large role of their heritage and being an agriculture college to play in this finding, their biggest and most important aspect is quality.

“We love food. We wanna make sure we treat food properly so obviously sustainability is important to us and purchasing local is important to us,” says Townsley.

Chefs are able to grow food in the greenhouses on campus for organic farming. The compost from that waste goes back to the organic farm. With a vegetable processing room and an in house bakery, Townsley says they just know how to take care of the food.

“We have always produced food from scratch which means that when we are able to procure food locally it’s fresher. We get it when its freshest. We use it right away so the ingredients are at their best,” says Townsley.

He adds that this is all possible because of the large culinary team on campus that consists of an executive chef, four sous chefs, 30 cooks that are all chef certified along with 12 apprentices.

Townsley says that while food evolves, the university is able to experiment more with things such as international flavours and plant protein.

“We listen to the students and we sort of provide the things that they are looking for,” says Townsley.

Department head Chris Herkimer says since he began working here 30 years ago, he has seen the food experience on campus evolve, especially in students’ preferences.

“I think we’re very responsive to what students tell us,” says executive chef Vijay Nair, who has been in the role for the past nine years at the university.

The hospitality department has a student advisory committee that consists of approximately 30 students who live in residences and grad students who meet every week. They have an ombudsperson, Taylor Edwards, who asks students what they want so the committee can make sure it is acted on right away.

“For example, if someone says I need this flavour of ice cream in Lennox residence, they will make sure it’s done within a couple of days,” says Nair.

“I think that’s our biggest strength. We listen to what students tell us,” says Nair.

Nair says the challenge is always to consistently create new things and have a good variety.

“We have students who live here for eight months on a stretch on campus and then we have employees who are here throughout the year, so even for me, if I go to the same food court five days a week and I don’t see something different, I’m going to get bored really quickly,” says Nair.

“We really want to make sure when faculty or staff or students come to our university they say ‘Wow, that’s different. That’s good.’”

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