After class, students enter a small building in front of the Ewha Centennial Library and stand in front of the vending machine, waiting to choose their menu. Some are already in line with their trays in hand for a freshly fried pork cutlet. This is the lunch time scene of a typical day at the Helen Hall student cafeteria.
Their trademark menu, “Helen Hall pork cutlet,” is one of the most beloved student cafeterias on campus. Besides their cutlet, new dishes are constantly introduced, broadening the choices for students.
“When I was a university student, I preferred to eat off campus because the cafeteria always served the same menu,” said Kim Song-mi, the nutritionist of Helen Hall cafeteria. “Based on my own experience, I constantly try to come up with new menus that students would enjoy.”
However, coming up with and serving up a new menu is not as simple as it may be considered. After contemplating and deciding on a specific new dish, they have to submit their plans to the supplier of ingredients. The company then has to meet to discuss the submitted plans and whether the new dish will be added to the menu or not.
Also in the cafeteria, there is a self-bar where students can help themselves to side dishes and rice. Even so, with a limited number of employees, at times it is hard to keep up a speedy service, especially during the lunch shift, when a crowd of students come at the same time.
“I feel bad for not being able to provide food quickly for students in line,” Kim said. “To reduce the waiting time, we try to estimate the number of customers as best as we can to prepare an adequate amount of ingredients to shorten the time needed to serve the dish.”
Because the Helen Hall cafeteria is open to everyone, it has become a sort of tourist attraction as well.
“For special dishes like fried shrimps, we have to prepare the right number by constantly checking the number of students standing in line,” Kim said. “One day a tourist who could not read the Korean sign notifying the number of fries they can have per person tried to take all of what was left. I remember running out of the kitchen to explain that they have to leave some for students waiting behind them.”
Even though working in the student cafeteria is not easy, Kim and her co-workers are motivated by students who express their gratitude before leaving.
“While I am working inside the kitchen, there are students smiling and saying thank you as they leave the cafeteria,” Kim said. “Receiving these remarks in bright smiles from students is the most enjoyable part of my work.”
Helen Hall student cafeteria’s long history with Ewha will continue with the works of the nutritionists and chefs.
“We hope students know that we are always open to their comments and questions on anything related to our cafeteria,” Kim said. “We would constantly try our best to provide students with a more pleasurable time and hope more students visit Helen Hall student cafeteria.”