Diversity on the menu at University of Winnipeg

RidellStudents returning to class at the University of Winnipeg this week will have even more food for thought.

Replacing the long bemoaned Chartwells as campus food service provider, Diversity Food Services will feature affordable flavours from around the world on three locations including the main cafeteria in Riddell Hall, and a coffee shop and small restaurant on the university’s upper floors.

Diversity will also provide three squares a day for the 170+ residents occupying McFeetors Hall—the university’s new student and community residence.

Hot Bar

Leading the venture as Executive Chef, Ben Kramer, formerly of Dandelion Eatery, developed Diversity’s menu with a focus on nutritious, affordable and ethnically diverse food with a preference for sourcing local, organic ingredients and a commitment to fair-trade practices.

Kristen Godbout, former general manager of award-winning Bread & Circuses, is managing the operational side.

Not only will the cafe fuel the bodies and minds of University of Winnipeg students, it’s fueling local economic development too. The entire operation is structured as a social purpose enterprise, a revenue-generating venture that’s owned and operated by a non-profit organization and provides training and employment for individuals living in low-income situations and traditionally marginalized populations. As such it is joint venture of the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation, and SEED Winnipeg. Manitoba Labour and Immigration, Employment Manitoba and the United Way of Winnipeg are funding the training program.

Diversity will debut with a staff of 25 hailing from all over the world including Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Ethiopia, First Nations, Moldavia, Nigeria, Philippines and Sudan.



I was invited to a sneak peak a couple of weeks ago, a practice run for the staff to experience a full blown service and work out any kinks.

As a U of W alum I was impressed, and a little jealous, at the selection and quality students will now have.

A cold station offers fresh wraps, while the hot station finally uses the flat top grill to serve super-healthy, and wordly entrees like huevos-rancheros instead of the fried cardboard and greasy spoon slop that used to disgrace its surface.

At the end of the line, in a formerly underutilized space, there’s a juice/smoothie bar where a couple of baristas will become intimate friends with a pair of commercial grade blenders that will no doubt be challenged to keep pace with demand.


The icing on the cake, the disposable cutlery and serving vessels are made from recyclable materials and boast the distinction of being completely compostable (and compostable waste bins are already installed).

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5 Responses to “Diversity on the menu at University of Winnipeg”

  1. I had the pleasure of tasting their new fare a couple of weeks ago. It is a stark improvement over the past servings. One thing that did carry over and that continues to irk me, though, is that the servers neglect to wear gloves. Watching them put together a wrap in their bare hands is a bit offsetting.

  2. Hmmm. I know the staff are all given a Certified Food Handlers certificate as part of the training. Perhaps there’s something to do with the set-up that doesn’t require gloves.

  3. Chef Ben Kramer September 22, 2009 at 4:41 am

    Since all of our cooks strictly handle food and not cash, we do not require gloves. Gloves are generally used in food service when cooks also handle cash (ie. subway). We DO require frequent hand washing, which is far safer than gloves. Gloves tend to offer a false sense of security as they can get “contaminated” as quickly as a pair of hands.
    Very few (if any) restaurants require their cooks to wear gloves unless they are also working a till. The only difference with us (and why the gloves seem to be a concern with some) is we are completely visible to the public.
    We have a large number of staff who have completed the food handlers program, and hope that all of our staff will have taken it by the end of the year.
    Food safety is extremely important to us.
    Thanks for your comments and feedback.

  4. There you have it folks. The gloves question solved. Thanks Chef Ben Kramer for clearing that up.

  5. I do not see much of an improvement, if any, to the previous food service provider. Perhaps the one area where they excel is that their staff seems much friendlier than the cafeteria employees have in the past.

    That being said, the food offered by this company is EXTREMELY lacking in variety and the prices are certainly not any better than they were, in fact, I think they are higher. On top of this, several people I have spoken with agree that many food items lack flavor. Everyday the same few salads are available in the cafeteria and, for those of us who are not interested in a chickpea salad, a bland potato salad, or a salad with balsamic vinegar, it’s just plain old boring. It seems to me that the chef’s/cooks are making what appeals to them (or catering to a certain type of eater) without really taking the entire university population into consideration.

    While I wasn’t a huge fan of the previous food provider I find myself wishing they would return – at least they tried to have more options and offer a little bit of variety.

    Perhaps things will improve as they go along, they have just started after all. I hope that they will actively pursue feedback from students/staff and truly try to take their advice and make improvements.

    My advice: More options/variety please. Students like ready made items as they are sometimes in a hurry to get to class and need something quick. It would be nice to see different types of salad in your fridge and some more ready made sandwich options (not just wraps).

    I did eat the free style breakfast from the cafeteria and have to admit it was tasty, however, I found it frustrating that the next time I went to order it the price had been raised and I’m fairly positive the breakfast had been changed to only feature one piece of toast instead of two. Why raise the price???