Tim Hortons. Quiznos. Starbucks. These types of large corporate fast-food brands dominate most campuses and limit food options for university students and staff. I have often wondered why it has to be that way.
Why does the food that’s going to be gobbled up between lectures have to be the same as the stuff at the shopping mall, the airport, or the restaurant at the side of the highway? Why can’t there be something good, tasty, and nourishing to eat?
University of Ottawa has already demonstrated a slightly more enlightened view on the matter by allowing two creative food trucks — Stone Soup Foodworks and Relish — to have designated spots on campus. Next week, the institution will take another step forward by opening up a Première Moisson, Quebec’s leading artisanal bakery, in its brand-new Social Sciences Building.
Patrick Genest, director of Food Services at University of Ottawa, released a call for tenders last January for a food service partner for the building, and a selection committee was assembled. Their checklist was very specific. Members agreed that they wanted more diversity in terms of options, and more nutritious, better-quality food. They were looking for a local company, “something closer to its roots” (the Faculty of Social Sciences has the largest proportion of Francophone students on campus), and preferably one that had demonstrated social and environmental responsibility.
There were 5 or 6 contenders, but the winner, in the end, was unanimous: Première Moisson, Quebec’s leading artisanal bakery. The family-run business — with more than 20 locations in that province and products sold in supermarkets and Costco stores across Quebec and Ontario — is beloved for its quality French pastries, breads, and jams, as well as café items including gourmet sandwiches, soups, and salads.
Freshly baked butter croissants and decadent pain au chocolat may not be everybody’s definition of brain-food, but the promise of fresh morning pastries is bound to inspire a good number of weary scholars to get out of bed in the morning.
While the company has been considering a move into the Ottawa market for several years, fans based in the capital have only had access to a small assortment of Première Moisson breads at some Loeb and Farm Boy locations. This will be the first Première Moisson shop to open outside of Quebec. It also represents its first location on a University campus. Genest says it’s a chance for Premiere Moisson to test the water outside of its home province. To ensure consistency, many of the bakery products are prepared in the company factory in Dorion, just outside of Montreal. They are par-baked, flash frozen, and then the baking is finished on-site.
In 2007, the company became the first bakery to make all its wheat breads using natural flours produced entirely from wheat grown in Quebec. Its flours are unbleached and chemically untreated. Genest says the committee was impressed with the fact that the bakery has their own flour mill and liked the fact that it supports many local suppliers, including small producers in the region.
Genest anticipates that the new take-out shop will become a “destination” for the surrounding neighbourhood, including Sandy Hill and the Byward Market. It will be open 7 days a week. “It’s a really good product,” says Genest, “The almond chocolatine is my favourite.”