We get the low-down from Trinity’s catering manager Alexander Stone and special diets chef, Roshan Thapaliya, to uncover how the Trinity College kitchen ticks.
FLEXIBILITY WITH FOOD
As far as colleges go, Trinity’s food is pretty good (if we say so ourselves). Bland is banished by a team of creative kitchen-folk, who love a good flavour challenge, led by executive chef Trenton Root (third from left) and overseen by catering manager Alexander Stone (above left).
As well as avoiding a rinse repeat menu, the team makes sure dietary requirements are well catered for. ‘Lots of people are now choosing more flexitarian diets, so they’re not strictly vegetarian or vegan, but try to choose those options when they can,’ says Alexander. ‘That’s why Roshan [our special diets chef] puts a lot of work into trying to find interesting options.’
‘Whenever it comes to special diets, people think ‘oh that’s boring’, but it’s definitely not,’ says Roshan. ‘There are many ways to spice things up, and I like to bring heaps of flavour to my dishes.’
Roshan’s role includes preparing individual meals for those with special requirements, such as low GI, low FODMAP, gluten free and dairy free, and options are changed daily. This complements the vegetarian and vegan choices that are a standard menu inclusion every day.
‘Our executive chef Trenton puts a lot of effort into finding out what our students like to eat and makes sure there’s plenty of variety, while also ensuring we’re giving everyone proper nutrition,’ says Alexander. ‘We make sure everything is both balanced and delicious.’
Trinity’s kitchen is also very multicultural, which reflects in the food. For instance, Colin is British, Marie is from Mauritius, Roshan is from Nepal, Hua is from Vietnam and Sandy has German parents. ‘Marie is our breakfast chef and has a strong affinity for French cooking, which you see in the stuff she puts up for morning tea and breakfast … let’s just say she loves butter!’ says Alexander. And of course everyone loves Hua’s Asian food.’
BUILDING OUR COMMUNITY
Trinity’s food aligns to its values, with the College’s ever-important sense of community celebrated and enhanced by family-style dinners on Mondays and Tuesdays, followed by plated meals on Wednesday and Thursday.
Fridays are kept casual with pizza and pasta nights, for instance, so students can cruise into the weekend. Weekend meals are similarly relaxed.
‘Our family dinners come out in big great bowls and get passed around the table,’ says Alexander. ‘It encourages a real feeling of community when everyone’s sitting together sharing food.’
Then comes the real fun: theme nights. Once a semester, the Dining Hall is decked head to toe with decorations in line with a particular theme, such as Greek, Moroccan or a movie theme. ‘We dress the room up, play some music or a movie on the big screen, and go hell-for-leather on the menus,’ says Alexander. ‘I remember our Moroccan night had seriously impressive food. We had these big baked whole snappers and lamb shoulders, it was a good bit of fun.’
Then there was the Harry Potter night – quite fitting in a dining room already reminiscent of Hogwarts. ‘Everyone wore their academic robes and got a pin to show what house they were in. We had a giant buffet running down the centre of the tables, just like in the films,’ says Alexander. ‘Everyone really got into it.’
Needless to say, the kitchen team also had a hoot, being the jovial bunch that they are (see photo above for evidence).
SUSTAINABILITY IN ACTION
Trinity’s sustainability commitment also shines through the kitchen. The catering team works closely with student groups and the College administration to make sure waste is reduced and recycled. ‘Our takeaway products for students who need after-hours meals are made from 100% recycled products,’ says Alexander.
All rubbish is separated before it leaves the kitchen, with food waste collected and put through a dehydrator to create mulch, which is then used on the grounds.
‘The students are very involved with what happens in the kitchen,’ say Alexander. ‘The bursary program [which requires students to do shifts in the kitchen] is really cool as it means students get to see for themselves how our kitchen operates.’
Getting residents involved in the kitchen also prompts new initiatives. For instance, a group of students found a company that recycles the plastic tags off bread and uses the money to make products that support people with disabilities, so these are now collected and donated.
‘We have a really good relationship with the students – we do feed them three times a day, after all – so they are very forthcoming with us,’ says Alexander. ‘They’ll say, “hey, we found this cool thing, can you help us execute it?” and we say “yeah, let’s get it going”. It makes for such a nice environment for both us and them.’
Alexander also credits the fact that students get to work in the kitchen as a chance for them to learn valuable life skills. ‘Some wouldn’t even know what end of the broom to use when they start, but they’re nearly always willing to get in and learn and have a really good attitude,’ he says.
Trinity’s residential students are served three meals a day, seven days a week, including a hot and cold buffet breakfast and lunch, plus afternoon tea. Snacks and barista coffee are available to purchase throughout the day (with discounted coffees for those who bring a keep cup).
Read more about Trinity’s food.
Above: Alexander Stone, Cathie Coates, Trenton Root, Sandy Donnelly, Roshan Thapaliya, Marie Dada and Jacqui McPherson.