John Kemp’s Kitchen: Caf Cuisine

 cr: John Kemp

cr: John Kemp

If there’s one thing I don’t miss about Glendon, it’s the caf. I don’t miss the limp lettuce at the salad bar, I don’t miss the not-so-Indian Indian food, the soggy sandwiches, the oddly sweet pasta sauces, or the mind-boggling prices. I certainly don’t miss the conditional passes from health inspectors. I remember in first year, checking the Keele shuttle schedule every day so that I could make it there in time to eat dinner, just to avoid the Glendon cafeteria. I knew that if I got stuck eating in the caf, I would get sick of my meal before I was even close to being full. It is for this reason that the cafeterias at my exchange university here in Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne (UNIL), have been so wonderfully refreshing.


At UNIL, there are four cafeterias and one full restaurant which is a little higher-end. The cafeterias all work in generally the same way, being that you take your tray and utensils, and then help yourself to whatever dishes are being served that day that catch your eye, as well as a variety of drinks (including wine and beer, for those extra-stressful lectures). What was incredible though, was that the meals available aren’t not-so-Indian Indian food, soggy sandwiches, or even limp lettuce. No, what’s on the menu is herb-crusted prime rib with orange infused gravy over new potatoes and roasted root vegetables, topped with a dash of fine herbs and alfalfa sprouts. Don’t like that? Well, you could opt for the grilled cedar salmon with lemon-butter sauce, wild rice, sautéed garlic broccoli, and a sprinkling of minced chives instead. Still not your thing? Then you’ll love the butternut squash ravioli with white wine cream sauce and prawns. What I’m getting at here is that this isn’t just good food; this is restaurant quality food. Just have a look at how they plate it up:

 cr: John Kemp

cr: John Kemp

 cr: John Kemp

cr: John Kemp

What I believe this is, is an extension of what I wrote about in my first article of this year: food is important in Europe. It’s not about the business of mandatory meal plans, increasing profit margins, or signing a contract with the school to run the cafeteria for the next twenty years. It’s about good food for students, making sure that food is affordable, and keeping production of it in-house so that the quality can be controlled, (the university owns and runs all the cafeterias). It’s not expensive (about eleven Canadian dollars per meal), and it’s great food. It’s made me reflect on what eleven dollars gets you at the Glendon cafeteria.


For the caf to improve, the culture surrounding it has to change. If they’re going to make meal plans mandatory and limit kitchen use in res, then that food had better be just as good if not better than what I’d make myself. We don’t need to be told that there’s a new chef that’s been hired, or that they’re doing a survey, or changing the pasta station to do taco Tuesdays, or whatever the scheme is now. What we need is real, good food. We need that eleven dollars to be worth it.

Until next time,

John Kemp