Cooking for EMBL Events

Head of the EMBL Canteen and Cafeteria Michael Hansen (front, in grey) with his dedicated team. PHOTO: Marietta Schupp/EMBL

Anyone who has ever set foot in the EMBL Canteen is sure to go away wanting more. It’s no coincidence that the canteen has a reputation for serving some of the best food in the Heidelberg area.

So what is their secret?

Head chef Michael Hansen’s team of 29 (23 people in the canteen and 6 in the cafeteria) work tirelessly to cater for over 800 members of staff daily and over 6000 conference and course participants annually. Besides the great dedication of his staff – which involves regular evening and weekend shifts – he places great emphasis on the quality and freshness of the groceries they use.

“We buy our meat, fruit, vegetables, bread and eggs from local suppliers. For us it is important that the groceries have the shortest route so that they are as fresh as possible when they get to us. Our furthest supplier is 90 km away. For food that is not produced in Germany, such as olive oil, we do have to order from abroad, but we do that directly with the producers without going through a distributor.”

Everything is then freshly prepared and cooked before it is served, with close attention paid to nutritional value. This is especially important for the EMBL kindergarten, which caters for over 100 children of staff.

In 2018, the EMBL Canteen cooked for 6430 course and conference participants, and for this purpose used:

  • 32 crates of salad
  • 160 kg onions/garlic (imagine how many tears must have been shed!)
  • 225 kg fish
  • 225 kg potatoes
  • 290 kg meat
  • 803 kg fruit
  • 935 kg vegan/vegetarian dishes
  • 1,607 kg vegetables
  • 1,376,020 l coffee was served

“In the EMBL spirit, the canteen team is truly international, employing people from 12 nations who, despite their differences, have one thing in common – their love for cooking!  One of the reasons I became a cook is because of food’s power to unite people. And here I see this every day. Preparing one meal requires real team work. Everybody gets together and takes one step of the process so that all is done in the most efficient way, but still has great taste.”

Here is one of the canteen’s most popular recipes, named after Thomas Graf, EMBL Alumnus (1983 – 1998) and currently Senior Scientist at the Centre for Genomics Regulation in Barcelona, Spain:

Thomas Graf potatoes

1kg potatoes

100 ml oyster sauce

1 clove of garlic (pressed)

1 tsp honey

Pinch of salt

Black pepper

1 tbsp oil

Wash the potatoes and cut them into wedges without peeling them. Add all the ingredients and mix well. Preheat the oven to 180°C, place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 40 min.


PHOTO: Marietta Schupp/EMBL
PHOTO: Marietta Schupp/EMBL
PHOTO: Marietta Schupp/EMBL
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Training in numbers

For those of us who like data, end of year statistics are like the holidays all over again. It’s a few days combining the external training data from all six EMBL sites, then playing with excel sheets and pivot tables galore. The point of it all? We want to know how many scientists we reach each year, and our goal is to train as many scientists as possible – after all, sharing is caring, and training is one of EMBL’s core missions.

External training activities at EMBL focus largely on the events in the Course and Conference Programme , which saw 7,148 people come through EMBL’s doors in 2018, around 500 more than in 2017. We had 59 courses and 26 conferences across our sites in Heidelberg, Hinxton, Hamburg and Grenoble. For us here in Heidelberg, there was never a dull moment, from the intimate meetings with 50 participants, to the conferences that filled the Klaus Tschira Auditorium to capacity or the course participants chatting away during the coffee breaks. In addition, 345 delegates received financial assistance to attend one of our events, thanks to the EMBL Corporate Partnership Programme and EMBO, as well as Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds who provided support for various practical courses.

EMBL’s external training activities also comprise online training in bioinformatics and wet lab techniques, where we reached almost 500,000 users – and this doesn’t even count all the YouTube views. On- and off-site training activities carried out by EMBL faculty via lectures, workshops, conference exhibitions, etc are where we reach the most people. In total, EMBL staff reached more than 75,000 people – equal to about ½ the population of Heidelberg! The EMBL Scientific Visitor Programme, which allows scientists to come to EMBL through internships or collaborate on specific research projects had 688 students take part from all around the world.

As you can see, 2018 was a very busy year for all of us involved in external training. Whether it be group leaders, scientific organisers or teams of event organisers, it takes a lot of people to deliver the extensive and high quality training that EMBL has to offer –  so we would like to give a big THANKS to everyone involved!

 

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