Last week, KPU’s 8th annual International Focus Week (IFW) took place on both KPU Richmond and Surrey campuses. The event occurred from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3 and this year’s focus was on Exploring Global Learning Opportunities at KPU, while celebrating the diversity and global engagement on and off campus. During the event, students could participate in a lot of activities such as Mexican and Bhangra dance performances, pumpkin carving, trivia games and workshops.
Students also had the chance to try a food-tasting table, where it was offered different recipes from many countries. The organizers had planned this lunch for 100 students, however, a lot of unexpected participants showed up at the last minute to try it, and after 20 minutes everything was over.
Fellipe Vargas, 26, an exchange student from Brazil was impressed.
“I couldn’t try the samosas! My friend made a Nnapchat showing the table then I left my class earlier just to try it, but there were just a few nachos left. They were pretty good though,” he said.
Sarah Mindel, 56, was in the Student Enrolment Services counter filling a couple of forms for her granddaughter, who will be a KPU future student. She joined the lunch as well, saying: “When I heard the lunch was for everyone I had to come! It smelled so good! I loved the mini quiches and the Tiramisu cake.”
The person behind this success was Gurpreet Sanghera, 34, the general manager of Food Services at Sodexo on Kwantlen’s Surrey Campus. Sanghera is originally from the Punjab region in India, where she completed her master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. She moved to Canada five years ago. As a manager, she is the responsible for quality control and for supervising every step of the food preparation for both catering and cafeteria services, located at the second floor of Birch Building.
During the International Focus Week, Sodexo was in charge of serving food from various countries. All the KPU community had the chance to try nachos from Mexico, hummus from the Middle East, salad rolls made with rice paper from Vietnam, spanakopita from Greece, quiches from France, spring rolls from Southeast Asia and samosas from India. The dessert menu included cheesecake, representing American food, and tiramisu from Italy. Asked about what was the most difficult recipe to prepare, Sanghera is pretty straightforward: “The Vietnamese one, definitely! The rice paper takes about two hours to elaborate and the vegetables need to be cut in a specific way that also takes time. But it is delicious.”
It is not easy to work in the catering field, especially when it comes to international food where the ingredients are not easy to find and the clients may be demanding. There are challenges involved in many aspects, such as employee training and sanitary preparation, documentation, suppliers with food safety certification, food allergy checks and a proper transportation, since hot and cold foods must be held at the proper temperature and checked afterward to make sure they stayed at this temperature. Besides that, the ability to deal with unexpected situations is a prerequisite for this career.
For Sanghera, the obstacles they have at the company start with the staff: “I have only two cookers, and four employees who can help me here. If someone doesn’t show up or if some of them take the break at the same time, it might be a problem. The orders are unpredictable. Sometimes, someone calls me in the morning, ordering catering for that same day in the afternoon and if I’m out of staff, I’ll be in trouble.”
Another example is the availability of products. “Depending on the day, my supplier can be out of some ingredient that I need for that occasion and that cannot be replaced. So, I have to stop everything what I’m doing to go out and buy it. When you’re running against time this is stressful.”
Kwantlen is a multicultural university and this is easy to verify through the students’ habits, clothes, languages and, of course, food.
“Students at Surrey campus order a lot of Indian and American food and since I’m working here I’ve never seen someone ordering Thai food, for example. What is actually funny because at Cloverdale campus, that is the most ordered dish.”
According to Sanghera, among the options they have on the menu for catering, the Italian food is the easiest to prepare.
“You can’t go wrong with pasta. You just have to prepare the Ceasar salad and the sauces. Alfredo and marinara, for example, are really quick to prepare.”
Being a South Asian women living in Canada and working with international food, Sanguera’s food preferences were a mystery that had to be solved. Asked what was her most favorite dish, led to a surprise.
“Greek food, for sure! I love the chicken souvlaki with greek salad, and spanakopitas. And the great thing is that they usually come in a large portion with pita bread and tzatziki sauce. Definitely my favorite one!”
In case you want to know how it feels to prepare Italian food in the easiest way, according to a South Asian chef who loves Greek food, here is your ticket.
• 24 ounces Fettuccine pasta
• ½ cup butter
• 1 pint heavy whipping cream (2 cups)
• 4 ounces cream cheese
• ½ teaspoon minced garlic
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon pepper
• 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
In a medium saucepan add butter, heavy whipping cream, and cream cheese. Cook over medium heat and whisk until melted. Add the minced garlic, garlic powder, italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Continue to whisk until smooth. Add the grated parmesan cheese.
Bring to a simmer and continue to cook for about 3-5 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Toss it with the fettuccine and voilà! Bonne appétit!