Epi-curious about the new catering company?

Students voice their opinions about Epicure Catering

In August, Epicure Catering Co., Ltd. replaced last year’s school-employed chef, Adam Betz, to service the canteen and provide food for students and faculty in the form of school lunches, snacks, and drinks. Furthermore, Epicure Catering will also cater for various school events.

Epicure Catering is a Thailand-based company established in 2003 that specializes in catering for international and local schools throughout Southeast Asia.

UNIS’ catering is now managed by Andy Bird, Epicure Catering’s Managing Director for Cambodia and Vietnam, whilst Chef Quan takes place as Head Chef and Canteen Manager. Bird is a professionally trained chef from the UK with experience working with international schools in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Bird is confident that Epicure Catering is a good option for UNIS. “We do understand school catering and we can bring aspects from our experience in school catering,” he said.

Furthermore, Epicure Catering’s visions align with UNIS’ priorities. The importance of food safety, quality, and service have been stressed in a statement released from Charles Barder, the former Head of School.

Likewise, Bird said:

“We spend a lot of emphasis on food safety and training our staff and sourcing suppliers that have the proper certification.” Bird said, “we want to give the best possible service we can, and value for money, while providing food safety.”

UNIS students, however, have expressed other priorities. The Senate Student Representatives conducted a survey among their grade level, and their report stated that “most people feel like the food that the canteen serves doesn’t provide much variety.” Similar surveys were conducted across all HS grade levels, and there was a general sentiment in the survey results that the food lacks variety.

“The food menus were too similar to each other. It was always something like baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, fish, rice. I just wished they had more variety in their lunch menus.” said Hye Min Lim, a Grade 11 Senate Student Representative.

“We have a compendium over the many years we’ve been working in schools, of over 1500 dishes, and we try and integrate those into this school,” Bird said. “We have four weekly menus that are in rotation for one term, or one quarter. The reason we do that is so we can better understand what the popular dishes are among students and then we can control our food volumes.”

According to the Senate survey results, Epicure Catering’s coffee shop also received some negative comments. Students claim the drinks and snack prices are too high. The salad bar, on the other hand, appears to be popular, receiving mostly positive comments. Students are saying, though, that they miss the salad refill opportunities of last year.

Another concern among students and faculty seems to be the feedback system and the human aspect of Epicure Catering. Last year, Chef Adam was constantly present during lunches and went around to tables gathering feedback and talking to students. This year, the students and teachers find Bird less approachable.

Bird explained that he will be getting feedback from the school’s Senior Management, parent meetings, and the leadership teams.

“We’ll be making changes based on the feedback,” he said. “I’m in the canteen every day, so students can approach me, talk to me if they’ve got any concerns, same with my chef manager, [but] nobody’s actually come to speak to me directly.”

Some people are not affected much by the change from Chef Adam to Epicure Catering.

“[Epicure Catering is] pretty okay. I don’t have strong feelings either way,” Minh Nguyen, a Grade 11 student said. “[The food is] literally the same I would say.”

The Senate held a meeting on Sept. 20 with UNIS’ Senior Manager of Operations Carl Strefford to discuss Epicure Catering and the feedback they have received from the student body. The results of this meeting will be reported back to Bird, who will use that feedback to make any necessary changes.

When it comes to the complexities of catering to a diverse community such as UNIS, with a large population of many different nationalities, tastes and dietary requirements, Bird said, “We know we can’t please every individual, so we just try and find a middle ground where we can make everybody reasonably happy. That’s the big challenge. But when we do get it right, that’s rewarding as well.”

Photos Courtesy of UNIS Hanoi