TU/e volunteers put candidate caterers to the test

A feast of intense and varied scents and tastes was enjoyed on Tuesday and Thursday on the first floor of De Zwarte Doos, where four candidate caterers presented themselves to close on a hundred students and employees. The evaluations of this critical ‘tasting crew’ count towards the choice of a new catering partner for TU/e. The successful applicant will start work in the new year.

Fresh salads and wraps, soups and juices, steaming world (and Dutch) dishes - the range during the tasting sessions (served from multiple counters and from trays continuously handed round) is diverse and, above all, abundant. In advance, one caterer had distributed paper bags among the participants, inviting them to be sure to leave the tasting with something for friends, colleagues or people at home. Because 'averse to waste and environmentally aware' is, of course, an apt description of the parties presenting themselves; their selection and compatibility with the university's schedule of requirements has not been a matter of chance.

Durga Batchu, Master's student of Automotive and an Indian national, is acting as one of the international gourmets this week, together with a friend. He lives in the residential tower Aurora on site at TU/e and has a kitchen there, “but cooking takes a lot of time”. And undeniably the Netherlands has less of a passion for street food than India, where outlets are found on every street corner. So Batchu eats out regularly in the city, and partly because after 2 p.m. and on weekends there is barely anything to be had on campus - a definite point for the successful new caterer to address, is his tip.

Aside from the opening hours, he is pretty satisfied with the range of catering available at TU/e, as he is, he says, with Dutch cuisine - stamppot ('mash pot') and thick pea soup with bacon bits (erwtensoep) are among the Dutch dishes this Master's student likes. That dishes from other continents are also on the menu at the various TU/e catering outlets is something he welcomes, “but then it has to be good. You shouldn't be serving something just so you can check off that you catered for the internationals today. It has to be better than that.”

Not supermarket quality

Close by, Aiik Biermans is standing in line at a counter offering soups and dishes with an Arabian touch. The first-year student (“I'm going to be here for a couple of years yet so I'd welcome a good caterer”) is making his judgment not only with his tongue, but also with his wallet. Next to the dishes and products on offer during the tasting sessions, prices are mentioned. “Students tend to go for the slightly cheaper items, don't they?”

Incidentally, the amount the prospective biomedical engineer is prepared to spend on a meal on campus may vary  from day to day, admits Biermans. And that, it seems, depends not only on when DUO lines his proverbial pocket: “On a morning when I'm feeling a little hung over, I tend to spend a bit more”. But his initial focus on the cost does not mean that Biermans will let himself be fobbed off with, what he calls, ‘supermarket quality’: “In that case, I might as well walk to the Spar. The food must be really tasty.”

When I walk into the canteen, I want to be enthused

Sophie van der Weerd
Academic advisor and selection coordinator at Industrial Design

Sophie van der Weerd (academic advisor and selection coordinator at Industrial Design) is sort of standing in for her colleagues at the two tasting sessions, she explains with a laugh. Together they will all be moving soon from the Laplace building to Atlas. “So I'd like to have a bit of a say in what we get there in terms of catering.”

Her ‘inner person’ wants more than anything to avoid disappointment. “If I feel like eating a tasty sandwich, then that's what needs to be available - I don't want to feel that I should be ‘satisfied’ with something else. When I walk into the canteen, I want to be enthused.”

Final choice

Martin Boers, head of Internal Affairs (DIZ) whose remit includes the catering, is also taking part in the tasting session. With an air of satisfaction, he observes the large group of volunteer guinea pigs. “A lot of people signed up; that alone tells you how much people care about this. I am keen to know what it will reveal.”

The evaluations of the testing crew count for 20 percent towards the final choice of a new caterer. The outcome of the tender process will be announced at the end of June; the party chosen will then set to work on the campus in early 2019.

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