The issues of imported beef and melamine have been the hot potato in Korean society. As these food-related incidents awake the increasing concern of the people relating to the food they consume, Jin Sun Mi Kwan Cafeterias have opened their kitchen doors to show how their cooks make fresh, healthy, and most importantly, “safe” food. The three cafeterias, all of which are located in the first floor of Jin Sun Mi Hall, are managed by the Office of General Affairs for faculty and graduate students use only. They share one kitchen that is in the Jin Kwan and serve to about 800 staffs and faculty members every day.
The three neatly decorated halls of the Jin Sun Mi Hall are always full of people during lunch and dinner. A couple of small and big private meeting rooms and VIP rooms are also prepared for school events. With about 4,000 to 5,000 won, people can choose among different styles of food, such as Korean and Western, and noodles and side dishes are also provided. Whenever treating special guests, school faculty members and staff preorder the menu in advance at about 15,000 won to 25,000 won per person.
According to Park Hyun-sook (’73, Political Science and Diplomacy), the current manager of the Jin Sun Mi Kwan Cafeteria, the fresh and safe ingredients attracts people to come there and eat. “We never use frozen, imported meat. Instead, we only use meat, vegetables and fruits made fresh here in ,” said Park. “I can surely say that we only use cattle beef.” Park says the main goal of the cafeteria is not to earn money, but to provide the school with fresh, healthy food. Thus, workers and chefs stand take a firm stand on using the best ingredients only.
There is one side dish that always comes up in every meal—kimchi. If Jin, Sun, Mi Kwan cafeterias put importance on “freshness,” how do they make kimchi? “In the past, we made kimchi by ourselves. However, as time passed, we realized that it is better to buy cabbage kimchi and sliced radish kimchi from the stores. This is because preserving those two types of kimchi is difficult,” said Park. Aside from the two kind of kimchi mentioned above, Park said other kimchis, such as cucumber kimchi and young radish kimchi, are prepared by the cafeteria staff members themselves.
Starting from this semester, the cafeteria has also been making its own soy sauce and deonjang (soybean paste), two of the most important spices used in cooking Korean food. The sauces are preserved in jars, located on the roof of the Jin Kwan. “I think everyone would probably already know that we never use any kind of artificial seasonings, even dasidas (artificial condiments). We only use these homemade soy sauces and deonjang in seasoning the food,” said Park.
Since the cafeterias never add any artificial flavors, some people may think that the food may be too plain. However, Park stresses that the chefs make sure to maintain the adequate amount of salinity, saccharinely (sugar content) and food acidity. “As I mentioned earlier, our duty and motif is to maintain a balanced diet among people. All of us, working here in the cafeteria, regard ourselves as ‘health protectors.’ Thus, although some are not used to our food salinity, we insist on making adequately-salted food,” said Park. “We hope professors and students’ tastes become adjusted to the adequate salinity level.”
Aside from the using fresh ingredients and adjusting the salinity of food, Park stated the Jin Sun Mi Kwan cafeterias also try to keep a certain balance for a proper diet on the foods they serve. Showing the menu schedule for a week, Park said, “For the sake of those professors and staff members who eat both lunch and dinner at our cafeteria, we serve meat for lunch and fish for dinner. This way, the food wouldn’t be too heavy for them.”
Such freshness and healthiness of the Jin Sun Mi Kwan Cafeterias are all appreciated by the people who come everyday to enjoy their meal. Professor Kim Young-kyu (Korean Studies) eats his lunch in Mi Kwan cafeteria more than four times a week. “Not only is the price reasonable and the food delicious, they also have their own nutritionists. I can trust the safety of the food.” said Kim.
Staff members at the Centennial Library also choose Jin Sun Mi Cafeterias as their lunch spots. “Some university staffs who work until late at night eat both lunch and dinner at the cafeteria. In my case, I am pretty sensitive about the seasoning, and I can notice whether the food has added artificial flavoring. But unlike other restaurants that only care about the appearance and taste of the food, I am positive that food in Jin Sun Mi Cafeterias is really healthy,” said a staff member at the Centennial Library.