By Neale McDevitt
Like all the great restaurateurs, the people at McGill Food and Dining Services (MFDS) aren’t afraid to tweak things on a regular basis to keep things fresh. Menus, decor, student-centred events – everything is fair game if it means improving the dining experience for McGillians.
Formed in 2009 under the umbrella of the Office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), the unit has distinguished itself in its first three years with a series of bold initiatives – including hosting culinary workshops for students and partnering with Macdonald Campus Farm to benefit from the fresh produce grown there. “Change is good” seems to be the unofficial mantra for the unit and the 2012-13 academic year only promises more of the same.
As with much of McGill property, major renovations were the order of the day over the summer for MFDS, with the dining halls at Athletics and Bishop Mountain Hall undergoing significant upgrading. In the case of the latter, the facelift included an expanded and improved lounge area that planners hope will also serve as a common area.
“We want this to be a student area where they can eat, but also where they can just grab a coffee and hang out,” says Mathieu Laperle, Director, Food and Hospitality Services. “During exam periods the seating area can be left open after the dining room closes so students can have a comfortable place to study.”
Other renovations included the relocation of Macdonald Campus’ Link Café, and the Schulich School of Music’s Infusion Café.
McGill’s newest residence, La Citadelle (see article above) has been equipped with a state-of-the-art common kitchen overlooking Montreal that encourages students to cook for themselves. “The idea is to have students who don’t know much about cooking to learn this lifelong skill,” says Oliver de Volpi, McGill’s Executive Chef, who is planning a series of activities designed to teach cooking basics at La Citadelle.
Diners will also benefit from the ever-expanding relationship between MFDS and Mac Farm. The partnership began modestly enough in 2009, with MFDS purchasing some $5,000 worth of fruits and vegetables from Mac. That number jumped to $15,000 in 2010 and $30,000 last year. This year, Mac will also supply McGill eateries with some 300 dozen eggs a week, as well as with some beef. “They’re doing some pretty interesting things at Mac,” says De Volpi. “For example, instead of pesticides they use wasps to control worms that can damage crops – which is great for the clients who eat at McGill.”
Finally, MFDS has a new member, Arts undergrad Sam Gregory, who will act as the unit’s ombudstudent. New this semester, the position was created to foster better communication between students and MFDS. Gregory will act as the student representative in all issues related to MFDS, fielding questions, concerns and complaints. As ombudstudent, Gregory will sit in on MFDS meetings and will also be the student voice during the unit’s regular review processes. Sam Gregory can be reached at Ombudstudent.firstname.lastname@example.org