Our Campus: Spoon University at UBC is the reason you’re distracted during lectures

The life of any student is plagued by procrastination, and food choices are no exception. While Bobby Flay is a fantastic inspiration for any budding chef, students don’t always have the time to plan and cook one of his recipes.

That’s where Spoon University comes in. Founded at UBC by students Karina Kwok and Natalia Ordonez, the UBC chapter is an online platform for publishing recipes, videos, food challenges and more.

“It was kind of messy because the whole process of starting a chapter was a little bit disorganized. I wanted to be the editorial director and somehow I found my way into becoming a co-founder,” said Kwok.

Essentially a Food Network for students, Spoon University’s motto is “the food resource of our generation.” Many students have probably been sucked down the rabbit hole of its Tasty-style videos — oftentimes in the middle of a mid-lecture Facebook scroll. While the website covers everything from casual recipes to pop culture, people are — as expected — mostly interested in the food.

Kwok and Ordonez didn’t know each other before Spoon, but they’ve come to form two halves of the leadership team that manages 42 writers, videographers and photographers at UBC. After meeting on a UBC class Facebook group and being partnered by Spoon University’s headquarter, the two had to decide how to differentiate their chapter from the hundreds of others that exist both in Canada and the United States.

“There’s never no interest in food, because everyone loves food.” said Kwok, while noting that the two fielded dozens of applications to write, photograph and shoot videos in their first round of recruitment last year. “There’s always a lot of people who are interested and want to be active in some sort of food-related community.”

Gaining recognition among Canadian chapters and in the United States where Spoon University is more popular was the main goal, but the two co-founders have also found ways to make the chapter reflect the campus it serves.

“As we started to get together and we started to find people and make a group and begin to write articles, we realized that UBC is very diverse and we wanted to input that into our Spoon chapter,” said Ordonez, who serves as director of communications and logistics. “We wanted to promote the idea of diversity, which is obviously a really big thing here at UBC.”

Part of that inclusion is allowing writers to choose their own pieces and to work on what they’re passionate about, according to Kwok, who serves as the editorial director.

“I actually leave it up to all my writers to choose a topic that they want to write about because I’m a big advocate of having the choice to write what you want to write. That’s the only way I can give them a good Spoon experience — if they’re passionate about what they’re writing about.”

According to Kwok and Ordonez, this sometimes means sharing recipes from home or new experiments — of varying quality — around the meeting table. Other days, it means trying to figure out how to reach out to students amid the pre-existing 400 clubs on campus.

“It’s hard because campus is so big. On top of the 400 AMS clubs there are, I’m sure [there are] 100 more underground communities, so it’s hard to get the word out there,” said Kwok. “But I would say that in terms of Canadian chapters, we’re doing quite well.”

Amid the competition for the writers’ time and readers’ clicks, Kwok and Ordonez are focusing on branching out from the traditional food-only coverage to round-out the platform. With over 1000 likes on its Facebook page and growing, Spoon University at UBC is just getting started.

“On top of all the food related articles, Spoon recently launched Healthier, which is primarily based on mental health, physical health, spiritual health and emotional health. So it’s more about mindset and lifestyle,” said Kwok.

Ultimately as it undergoes changes, Spoon University at UBC remains a resource for university students that puts food at its heart.

"We hope that when our readers read one of our articles, they’re inspired,” said Kwok. “I think that’s our biggest goal: to inspire them to either cook or to go out, make more conscious decisions [and] to be more aware about what’s going on in the food world.”