For most foreign students, the international kitchen is where they seek the dietary comfort of eating the food of their homeland. For the rest, it is a place to experiment and dabble with various culinary practices and to revel in the joy of cooking and dining on any meal of their whim. So it comes as no surprise that the international kitchen holds a place of special importance to the international community. The KAIST Herald met with Purushothaman Nandagopalan, the head representative of the kitchen, to discuss its current state and some of the new changes that lie ahead, including the prospect of growing the facility into several more locations in the various KAIST campuses as well as the challenges met thereof.
Can you start by briefly introducing yourself?
Hi. My name is Purushothaman Nandagopalan and I’m from India. I have been working as the [international] kitchen representative for the past three years. So my role is just to regulate the kitchen based on three aspects. One is aesthetics, second is proper kitchen property usage and proper discarding of the wastage.
ISSS is taking all the initiatives to run this kitchen and they also provide the funds for running the kitchen. Recently, maybe two or so years back, the kitchen got renovated, we got some new shelves and new stoves, which you can see right now. For the last three years, it’s running like a proper kitchen with [required] registration and only registered members are allowed to use the kitchen. There are no other ways to get into the kitchen.
Regarding the numbers, we usually restrict the numbers based on the stoves we initially had. I guess in 2014, it was just 70 members; then, it kept increasing exponentially. Now, the number is restricted to 100, which is the maximum number allowed.
But doesn’t that present a problem if the number of international students is increasing and the kitchen is therefore very confined?
Yes, that is an issue. This is the space that we are allotted for and this is the space [with which] we can only serve 100 people. That is why other campuses like Munji and Hwaam are also facilitated with kitchens. ISSS has fought a few years back to expand the kitchen but in order to expand the kitchen, they had to shut it down at the time. So from the students’ side, it was a “no” for shutting it down and they were not happy with it.
Do you think that KISA merging with the student council can present an opportunity to make it bigger?
If we have a space to expand into, I will be saying “yes”, but then I’m insisting that this is a facility. I don’t think it should be taken advantage of by the students. And expanding the kitchen has been in the ISSS desk for some time, but they have to allot the proper budget for expanding it. One more thing is that I think they don’t require the minimal registration fee.
What do you mean by that?
Like now, you have to pay a 15,000 KRW registration fee but if it’s expanded you’d have to pay more for that. The halal shop (Pulbitmaru) is an initiative run by ISSS and the student welfare center. Every semester, we run a survey for expanding the kitchen and other facilities. But now the problem comes that costs are very high, which we found out through our survey to which very few people are responding to. So, you see, it seems that from the administration’s side, there is no impetus from the students to push for variety and expansion. So it helps to have a strong vocal agent like KISA to get the point across.