2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Photo by Matt James

Bake Chef: The best place to eat on campus

By Nazeefa Ahmed, April 24 2022—

Bake Chef is the only place on campus that I trust to serve me a fresh, affordable and mouth-watering lunch on days I need it the most. Their bread is soft and their vegetables seem to be picked fresh from a garden. More importantly, however, they serve halal chicken and beef, something that is a blessing for Muslim students such as myself.

During rush hour, they fall into an assembly line that serves subs by the dozen, yet they still know who ordered what without having to read the number on the ordering form. They have enriched our university eating palette infinitely, yet most of us do not know who they are.  

I had the privilege of speaking with Phong Vu, the current owner of Bake Chef who has been serving the University of Calgary community for over 15 years. He spoke to me about his family’s humble beginnings. 

“When my father came to Canada, he was trained as a baker, but when he opened his own bakery the business was not doing so well because of the big-chain bakeries in the area. After 15-20 years the opportunity for Bake Chef came and he took it.” he said. “My father used to keep a box of recipes for all the breads, and he always wanted to throw it away but my mom said, ‘No, don’t throw it away. Who knows, you might need it one day.’”

Business at the University of Calgary was not always easy. 

“When my dad first bought Bake Chef no one wanted it, and it was the slowest business. It was difficult in the beginning because people did not want to try out our subs because it looked so exotic. Most thought, ‘Do I really want to spend good money on something that I didn’t know?’ That’s the hard thing about not being a franchise — getting someone to try something new for the first time. That is why it is so important for us that someone has a friend to recommend us. Ninety-nine percent of our business now is repeat customers and referrals.”

When commenting on why people like his family’s subs so much, Vu says that it’s all in the bread. 

“I think bread is a staple. You can never get tired of eating fresh bread. We have a full bakery in the back so we can make everything by hand. It has always been about the quality for us,” Vu said. “Another thing we notice is that students really pay attention to price and value. When students eat our subs they are filled for the entire day so it is worth it.”

The university closures due to the pandemic was a change that they also had to adapt to. 

“It was weird because the entire time that we have been at the university Mac Hall has always been full, so seeing only a few people around when the university goes online was something we were not used to.” he said. 

As the university returns to full capacity and Mac Hall fills up again, Bake Chef is once again surrounded by dozens of fans. 

Most of us have had the bizarre experience of a Bake Chef employee knowing our order by just looking at us, even when it is rush hour. I was dying to ask Vu how they do it.

“Most of the time when someone orders we pay attention to what they are wearing. Usually, there is a color-popping out, such as blue or red. Then, once the sub is complete, we look for that color in the crowd and point.”

Vu also commented on his experience serving students. 

“I went to the University of Victoria and they did not have a common place like the University of Calgary does in Mac Hall. It is nice to be in that environment and interact with students on a daily basis.” he said. “We are also really happy with the number of Muslim students that enjoy our subs.”

Quality food means the world to university students. We are busy people, learning how to take care of ourselves for the first time. But, for me at least, it is comforting to know that if I am ever in need, Bake Chef is always around the corner, ready to serve delicious subs with a smile. 

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet