What’s on the Menu with Julia Janiszewska & Gisela Tuchszer, Project Managers of UCD MENU
New members are always welcome!
Emma Mescall, Team Lead, UCD Operations Group
A feast for the senses is on offer to UCD staff as UCD MENU have curated an international cookbook that promises to satisfy all palates, whilst focusing on story sharing and memories behind the selected recipes from members’ diverse backgrounds. I caught up with Julia & Gisela after their recent online launch of this imaginative endeavour, partnering with UCD Sanctuary & sponsored by UCD EDI.
For those unfamiliar with UCD MENU founded in 2018, with the aim is to welcome and integrate international employees into the UCD Community. They provide a space for networking, support members and exchange ideas with a focus on promoting cultural diversity and awareness. Currently there are over 240 members representing 50 countries, making MENU the biggest employee Network in UCD.
EM: Where did the idea come from?
Julia- It came from a chat four years ago with a colleague in Registry, Susan Mulkeen came to us with the idea to gather recipes from members for sharing (see page 3). When Gisela contacted me in October/November 2021, I saw an opportunity to develop this idea into a reality. The most enthusiastic responses from staff gravitated around food and drink we noted.
EM: How did you manage this large scale project, with keeping people engaged?
Julia- Managing deadlines is always an issue. On the first, we got 12 recipes and then you had to push for the rest. Members made all the recipe decisions. We were very careful though to keep the writing style for its authenticity.
Gisela- We tried to represent how multicultural we are as a group. We also contacted UCD Sanctuary to get students involved who are refugees or asylum seekers studying here to further represent the diversity in our UCD community. We have two recipes featured from Sanctuary students (see Page 23 & 24). We edited in stages and then EDI became involved, we then had designers at our aid!
EM: What was the most challenging part of the project?
Julia- People are busy and would like to get involved however can’t due to commitments.
EM: What was the end goal or target of the project you had set?
Gisela- The donation, we agreed from the beginning. We are all expats that chose to come to this country. We wanted to highlight the fact that not everyone is as lucky to be able to choose. Given the current context of conflict in the Ukraine, we are encouraging people to donate through the link in the book to the Irish Red Cross or the Irish Refugee Council (see Page 4).
EM: How much time goes into a project of this scale & calibre?
Julia- The most time was spent cutting down the text.
Gisela- Conveying to the designer what we wanted from the book.
EM: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently or change?
Julia- Working with others, you are dependent on their good will. You need to be flexible with deadlines or we would have a very thin book!
EM: Are there any other tips or suggestions you would give to other groups attempting similar projects?
Julia- Plan it first and find good partners to collaborate with that share your vision- like Gisela!
Gisela- This project created a sense of community, with everyone having the opportunity to present and talk about personal stories.
EM: Has hybrid working played a role for you both in tackling this project?
Gisela- Yes as I was alone in the office most of the time and the ability to use zoom for meetings was helpful.
Julia- For the launch online event had more participants as people find it easier to join via a click of a link.
EM: Have there been any stories from the book that have surprised either of you?
Gisela-What surprised us is the common elements you find along different cultures. You find similarities between generations of traditions from all over the world.
Julia- It’s interesting how cuisine is mixed from different countries like our story of classical Swedish meatballs (see Page 26).
EM: Do the recipes come with any level of difficulty attached to them? Or is this indicated?
Julia- They are simple enough but some more preparation time.
EM: Are there any further plans for the launch of the cookbook for the community?
Gisela- We will be publicised it when it becomes online in a few days. We also want to showcase printed recipes at the UCD Festival and have a live lunch.
UCD MENU would like to acknowledge that new members are always welcome, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to join.
Please join UCD MENU for their next event on Fri 20.05 at 11am ‘Where cottage cheese & chocolate meets: Hungary, the way you have never seen it before’.