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story| Michelle Lee, Staff Writer
photo | Michelle Lee
Over the last few weeks, students might have noticed that food served in the dining halls has been seasoned better and served at higher temperatures. This is thanks to the efforts of Joseph Quek, who has been brought on as a Quality Assurance Lead Consultant for the dining halls since Oct. 1, 2019. Although new to Yale-NUS College, Mr. Quek, who was previously a Food Service Manager in Singapore Sports School, has already made some changes to how food is served in our dining halls. He clocks in 16 hours each week for his role under the supervision of the Dean of Students office.
“We didn’t have an internal staff member who had a food preparation background and could be in the dining hall on a regular basis. Mr. Quek sits in between the College and Sodexo and ensures accountability,” said Associate Dean of Students Dave Stanfield.
At 11 am on the days that he visits Yale-NUS, Mr. Quek makes his way through all the dining halls with a food thermometer, verifying that food is served at least 65 degrees Celsius. “Maintaining [this temperature] is important for food safety. On average, the food temperature has gone up to a range between 75 and 90 degrees Celsius.” said Mr. Quek. This serves as a double check for food safety on top of the manager of Sodexo’s catering service in Yale-NUS, Muhammad Ibrahim Hussein (Moh), who measures the food temperature on a daily basis.
Apart from maintaining the temperature, Mr. Quek does quality control by tasting every dish, making sure chefs add more seasoning to dishes that he deems too bland. While these are small steps, Mr. Quek’s decisions set a standard for all future menu items.
In the last few weeks, our dining halls had “live stations” during every lunch and dinner, where dishes like laksa and veggie burgers are prepared and served on the spot by dining hall staff. With Mr. Quek’s experience, he assists Mr. Moh in managing the replenishment rate of the dishes. “We also advocate for food sustainability and waste management as much as possible by spreading out the replenishment rate of food,” said Mr. Quek.
On top of Green Tuesdays and Thursdays, where plant-based food is served in the Elm dining hall, Mr. Quek has instituted a permanent vegan section in all three dining halls. This vegan section features proteins, vegetables and at least one starch item. After students expressed concerns about Green days, Ahn Yehoon ’23, Class of 2023 Student Government Representative, held a dialogue about the issue on Oct. 21, 2019. According to Ahn’s report, participants in the dialogue expressed an overall consensus supporting Green Days, with many students expressing frustration at a lack of plant-based options.
It is part of Mr. Quek’s role to be the mediator between the Sodexo and the Dining Hall Committee, which represents the student concerns about dining on campus. The Committee presents the feedback they gather in their open form to Sodexo at least once every two weeks. Often, the Dining Hall Committee does not get enough feedback, said representative Huanyan Huang ’23. They also prepare an end of semester survey to guide food preparation in the next semester, with around 50 students participating in last year’s survey.
Before Mr. Quek was hired, Sodexo had applied for the Halal certification of the Elm dining hall kitchen. Currently, only the Cendana dining hall kitchen is Halal-certified, and Halal food has to be prepared in Cendana and transported over to the Elm and Saga dining halls two to three times a day. When the Elm kitchen is Halal-certified at the end of November, cooking will be centralized there, saving time and resources.
While Mr. Quek is hired on a trial basis, the school is looking to extend his contract, said Mr. Stanfield.