A Taste of Home

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College of the Rockies is proud to welcome students from over 30 countries each year. While these students learn and live in the beautiful B.C. Rockies and to discover Canadian culture, they often leave behind their families, friends, language, culture, and even their favourite comfort foods.

Chef Steven Lechmann with students.

Kerry Brinkert, Manager of International Projects and Partnerships noticed that the lack of familiar foods can lead to homesickness. He approached Chef Steven Lechmann, operator of the College cafeteria, Pita Wrapbit, about providing specialty menus each Friday in January, and Food From Home Fridays (FFHF) was born.

Stephanie Wells, Dean, Business and University Arts and Sciences and Kerry Brinkert enjoyed each of the FFHF lunches with students.

“This wasn’t just about offering some familiar foods for international students or providing all students with some culinary variety,” Brinkert said. “It was also a chance for the College to engage our students and make them feel welcome. Each week, a manager from the International Department along with Stephanie Wells, Dean of Business, Tourism, and University Arts and Sciences hosted lunch for a group of students from the region being represented that day. Even our president, Paul Vogt, came by each Friday to sample the fare.”

At the start of the semester, international students were asked to propose a favourite food from home, describe it, and indicate why it is special to them. These suggestions were then taken to Chef Steve for input and he and Kerry settled on a different food to offer as a special each week. Each Friday was themed according to the four main regions or origins of new international students.

Over the month, students and employees were able to sample:

Rajma Chawal (Northern India)
Feijoada (Brazil)
Jollof (West Africa)
Bitterballen (Netherlands)

“Being a part of this event was the best time I’ve had in a long time,” said Lechmann. “I am passionate about cooking because I feel people can connect through food. To be able to share this experience with students so far from home was very special to me. It was also a great opportunity for my staff and myself to experience other cultures through the food we prepared.”

The event was such a success, with the FFHF dish selling out every week, it is something we hope to do again soon. Chef Steve and Kerry will be discussing the possibility in the near future.

“It was great to have jollof rice, chicken, and plantains in a Canadian setting,” said Grace Akinlusi, a student from Nigeria. “I felt welcomed into the Canadian culture while I was having lunch with friends and the international team. It was a way to remind me of my home country and the festivities there. This meal is often served at parties and can be eaten with fried rice, salad, moi moi, or any other protein. It was a great time enjoying this meal.”