“We’re all Gee-Gees as students on campus whether you’re an athlete or not,” Patrick Genest, the director of Food Services told me. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview Genest for Spoon, who has recently worked with engineering graduate student, Chris Falconi to create a tasty treat for the whole GeeGee Nation—the GeeGee Waffle.
Student Services has been working long on boosting the GeeGee brand. So, when Genest first saw the Mickey Mouse waffle at a conference in the United States in August 2016, he decided to bring that idea back and give it a home on the uOttawa campus. Thus, making the University of Ottawa the FIRST university in Canada to have its own waffle! (Take a seat, Carleton Ravens.)
“I thought to myself, ‘this would be great for students and to promote the GeeGee brand at the same time; so, how can we collaborate with the faculty and some students to make this happen?’” Genest recounted.
The process began with contacting Faculty of Engineering Vice-Dean, Marcel Turcotte, on who would best be suited to take on the project. In just one week of their initial meeting in mid-September, Professor Hanan Anis, NSERC chair in Entrepreneurial Engineering Design, and Falconi went through parameters, specs and built the first iteration of the waffle plate, using the 3D printer at the Richard L’Abbé Makerspace on campus.
One of the questions that was considered was: “How are we going to know what this waffle is going to look like if we can’t really shape it?” So, they decided to play with some Play-Doh and test the prototype to ensure the GeeGee logo would be well-defined in the waffle. Three versions later, in mid-November, the final prototype was replicated and five waffle presses were shipped out to get food-safe coating and returned in mid-January. The total process took about five months in total.
This project has also opened up the doors for more collaboration with Food Services and students. Food services are now working with a few classes on a hydroponic project and sponsoring that as a client. “We’ve developed that relationship with the students now and they’ve got the real-life kind of feel for the client experience and they’re working with us to fulfill our requirements. All around I think it’s a win-win for everyone in this process,” Genest said.
The GeeGee Waffle will be available in the dining hall Monday March 13th, 2017 and Food Services will be having ‘GeeGee Waffle Fridays’ every Friday from now on! Spin-off specials will also be in the future to discover the best pairings for the waffle.
#SpoonTip: I topped my GeeGee Waffle with some berries, whipped cream and maple syrup. I like to keep it simple and classic but check out this Spoon Article on the best waffle combos for more ideas to call your own! (No. 4 & 5 look heavenly, just saying.)
As for seeing the GeeGee logo in other foods, the possibilities are endless. GeeGee burgers and branding irons can all be made. According to Genest, Food Services is taking “one thing at a time. All these ideas bubble up to the surface but now it’s all about what makes sense. I think the experience has been a positive one for the whole campus and for Food Services as well.” The makerspace is also available to all students to put their own mark on any project. (I was thinking about making GeeGee cookie cutter myself.)
Lastly, Genest comments that “it was a great experiential learning experience for students and great for us to work with the faculty. We could have easily out-sourced this and had it done outside the university but I think it’s great to work with the faculties and students and professors together and have this partnership.” Finally, the GeeGee nation can say they are what they eat.