Student Life at International School Bangkok


Student Life at International School Bangkok


Student Life at International School Bangkok


Epicure Catering’s Critical Role at ISB

An open letter of appreciation
Aidan Menon
Epicure Catering area manager Ben Hartner and his team

As students at ISB, we have all at some point gotten hungry. At times like these, our school has done a thorough job of providing different options for all sorts of diets to meet the nutrition needs of students. From our cafeteria during lunch hours to the Grind and Upper Grind between classes, the options are extensive, especially compared to many other schools. But have you ever wondered how it all works? To answer this question, we consulted Bernd Hartner (more commonly known as “Ben”), area manager of Epicure Catering who is in charge of the food services on campus.

“The relationship between ISB and Epicure [has been in place] for the past 17 years, since 2007,” he says. At the time, there was only one coffee shop in the cafeteria. But students advocated for more options, which led to the Upper Grind in 2017 to make caffeine and snacks more accessible between classes. Throughout the years, ISB and Epicure have prioritized students and their needs. 

The Epicure office in the cafeteria (Aidan Menon)

Epicure has worked to provide food for students in other ways as well. In addition to operating the cafeteria and the Grind during the regular academic calendar, Ben and his team also serve kids over the three weeks of summer school and during sports camps. We as students don’t see when they have to delegate funds to organize cost effective, nutritious, and delicious food. And we’re not there as they work over school breaks to develop new menu items for students. 

As students, we often have a tendency to be critical without thinking about how many options we really have. In fact, “Students often find the food to be [better] after returning from a long break” Ben says. This is simply because of the repetition of meals that would be found at any institution. 

The food services have been adapted and adjusted over time to accommodate many different dietary needs, and Ben notes that “everything is made in house,” meaning all items such as the cheesecake or lemon tart are made in the ISB kitchen. This is important to guarantee that not a single peanut reaches any of the students or staff who have serious allergies. Epicure has gone to great lengths to ensure that the food served on campus is strictly free from cross-contamination by being made in house. There are, however, exceptions to such a rule. A clear example being the frozen yogurt served at the Grind. The Frozen Yogurt was brought back after student advocacy led to an eventual exception to the principle of all items being made in the ISB kitchen. 

Caution about food allergies is of immense importance, especially in the elementary school where ISB has 17 kids with extreme cases of food-based allergies. Because of this, the new ES cafeteria was built with a separate allergen-free kitchen eliminating ingredients such as wheat, eggs, and peanuts. Let’s pause for a moment and think about how crazy this is. Epicure and ISB built an entirely separate kitchen just to make sure students in the elementary school were being fed food that was safe for them to consume. Epicure also provides allergen-free options in the high school such as the gluten-free banana bread, cookies, and brownies available at the Grind. 

Ben with Catering Manager Khun Thip (Aidan Menon)

Covid-19 has also had a major impact on Epicure, as there was an extended period of time when there were no students to serve. Ben has held his position since 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic led to lockdowns around the globe. When the time came for students to return to school, Epicure and Ben were ready. All utensils were individually packaged, plastic dividers separated students at tables, and diners were spread out around campus during lunch time, including in the tent in the ISB parking lot, which remained up until the end of 2022. 

After a few short years of the plastic being put in place for student safety, Epicure was responsive when students advocated for more sustainable campus practices. All of the plastic was removed from the ISB kitchen and cafeteria. Even when the Grind cup was replaced, it was pointed out that “the wax lining made it so they could not be recycled,” Ben says. And so again, Epicure made a change.

There is a clear and common theme here. ISB and Epicure have prioritized convenience for students. If you want froyo, they got it. If you need safety, they got it. If you want another coffee shop, they got it. For students, teachers, and administrators, the food at ISB is the sole source of nutrition for seven hours a day, providing lunch and breakfast options available for the community as well. Epicure, ISB, and people like Ben spend their days tirelessly accommodating the students’ needs to make the kitchen a welcoming environment to everybody. 

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