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Chef Joshna Maharaj, who brought change to what campus food looks and tastes like at Ryerson, is leaving this month after two years.
Vice-president of administration and finance Janice Winton told The Ryersonian that “(Maharaj) surmounted a lot of the challenges she came here to tackle.”
Maharaj will leave her position of executive chef and the assistant director of food services at Ryerson. Her farewell party will take place today. She is currently producing a report to be released soon about her work on campus. The Ryersonian tried to reach Maharaj and a Ryerson Eats spokesperson confirmed that she would not be able to comment by deadline.
In the time she’s been at Ryerson, food took a dramatic turn from a greasy slice of pizza or dry pita wraps to locally sourced and diverse food.
Winton said Maharaj’s biggest accomplishment is redefining food at Ryerson.
“The choices on campus reflect our diversity; food services is now about great taste, local production and sustainable sourcing; (and) linking food with the student experience and academic success,” said Winton.
Some of these diverse options offered in The Hub and on-campus eateries range from locally sourced, vegan, sustainable seafood, halal dishes to other niche options.
“At least 25 per cent of all food purchased by Ryerson is local and sustainable,” as a result of Maharaj’s contributions, said Winton.
Arlene Throness, Rye’s HomeGrown’s urban agriculture co-ordinator, said two of the biggest things Maharaj accomplished are locally sourcing food and having kitchens on campus cooking from scratch.
That fed into the relationship with Rye’s HomeGrown, according to Throness, as Maharaj agreed to buy from the food that was produced on the rooftop farm and make use of it on campus.
“So that really allowed us to move forward with our project, knowing that we had a buyer,” said Throness.
As to what’s next for campus food after chef Maharaj, a director needs to be found first, Winton said.
“The first step will be hiring a new director of university business services,” she said. “We are actively searching for a new director who will be overseeing this important division, including food operations.”
The Ryersonian spoke to Maharaj in 2013 when she began working here. She spoke about what she envisioned the food could look like at Ryerson at the time.
“We can have food that’s good for our bodies, that is affordable, that doesn’t impact the planet in too intense of a way, and then still tastes really good,” said Maharaj.
This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Dec. 2, 2015.