A new club on campus whose founders saw an opportunity to help students adjust. Image: University of Ottawa Cooking Club/Provided.
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It goes without saying: going to university is a big life change. In many cases, you’re living away from home for the first time and largely becoming self-sufficient. On top of classes, students are faced with “adult problems” — that is, cooking, cleaning, and scheduling their own doctor appointments. 

“A lot of people’s situation… [are that] you go from zero to 100, when it comes to food. You [came] home to a fresh cooked meal, and then boom, you have to make everything yourself, and that’s a big difference.”

The executive team behind the University of Ottawa Cooking Club (UOCC) founded the club in 2021 because they recognized the centrality of food in every student’s life, and that many students might be cooking for themselves for the first time.

Vice-president of finance, Mariam Wakim, said the purpose of the club was “to create something that wasn’t necessarily academic, but still relates to a student life.”

UOCC is dedicated to giving students a space to discuss cooking. Having started out virtually, the club’s members mostly interact on Discord, where they share recipes and post pictures of their meals. 

There’s a channel to fit every food restriction or preference. “There’s a lot of talk about vegan and vegetarian foods, people just want to know what’s the best vegan cheese and things like that.” (Daiya or Blue Heron, if you’re interested.)

On Instagram, the executive team posts the recipes they’ve found weekly to give followers and club members inspiration.

Most importantly, they’re aiming to set realistic standards for student cooking. Wakim acknowledged, “When you’re in a university dorm, you’re not going to have ten … pans, [but you can still] cook some really cool things. You just want inspiration of what other people can do with the same resources as you so you can try to recreate that as well. Same for ingredients — we try to do budget-friendly things.”

They’re looking forward to hosting more in-person events in the future. Wakim hinted that an event is in the works that will bring members together to cook in one space, so stay tuned.

For Wakim, the club is all about “helping other people learn how to cook, rather than just me cooking for other people.”

UOCC knows it’s possible to make healthy and enjoyable foods that adhere to a student budget — and they want to arm other students with the skills to do it. The University of Ottawa Cooking Club provides students with realistic inspiration and a space to talk about cooking, whether it’s their passion or a way to meet a basic need.