Friday, October 13, 2017

UVI Cafe Providing the Best, When Times are the Roughest

Chef Ashley Allen

UVI Café, an Oasis in Times of Hurricane Recovery

The UVI Café never stopped serving warm, flavor-filled healthy food to students at the University of the Virgin Islands. The hundred and fifty students that sheltered in East Residence Hall on the St. Thomas Campus, never had to worry about food when Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the Virgin Islands.

A category five storm, Hurricane Irma struck on Sept. 6. Twelve days later, Hurricane Maria, also a category five storm, ravaged the territory. Both left heavy damage to UVI’s structures.

Fortunately, the UVI Café on the St. Thomas Campus survived the storm. “The pressure was on,” says Ashely Allen, UVI Café chef and Elite Hospitality Management president, of Hurricane Irma at its worst. “It felt like you were 30 thousand feet in the air, how your ears were popping. You could tell the building was shifting. I give it to who ever built this building, it is built strong.”

On the day that Hurricane Irma struck the territory, UVI students received three square meals. Breakfast was delivered before the storm, but the lunch delivery had to be dropped off quickly as Hurricane Irma arrived earlier than forecasted. At five p.m. after the storm passed, with no generator and limited lights, the UVI Café staff prepared dinner for the residents. Security assisted with the delivery of the food. When they emerged after the storm they noticed that several of the staff’s personal vehicles were damaged.

“It was a challenge, but we had a good crew,” says Chef Allen, who managed the best they could with after hurricane challenges, light, power, water and effective waste removal. The University’s physical plant employees and security were able to help with most of these challenges. “The crew, UVI staff as well, did an awesome job,” he says. “We all worked well together.”

Some members of the UVI Cafe team

Menu items included, juicy barbecue chicken, grilled pork loin, savory fish or veggie options, pesto pasta, soups and cookies. “It was a high end menu. The students didn’t feel anything as far as when it comes to the dining side,” says Allen. “They were eating as if they were eating on a regular basis.” They also prepared grilled sandwiches, but made sure the items were not bland. “We made sure that the flavor was on point and that we were on time,” he said. In addition to having dinner they ensured that the students had snacks as well.

“Our main goal was making sure that whoever was on the property was taken care,” says Allen, who catered to security and physical plant personnel as well. He made sure to especially take care of the students who were away from home with parents worrying about their welfare.

Chef Allen says that he had fun preparing and delivering the meals.

“The ‘Caf’ was exceptional,” Nigencia James, a junior communications major, who stayed on Campus for both hurricanes. “I don’t know what is was, but the hurricane food was the best ever I have ever had from the cafeteria. They were on par. I think they did an amazing job. They went above and beyond for us.”

“Most of the cafeteria staff have family that they could have gone home to, and they decided to stay here to ensure that we had something to eat and we did not hear them complain or anything,” James says. “They cooked the food. They brought it down, we shared and they repeated this cycle over and over without a frown.

“The Cafeteria staff took excellent care of us,” says Kaunda Williams, a business administration major at UVI, noting that they were better off than the rest of the island. “They were going through so much and we were here eating three meals a day.”

After the storms had passed the UVI Café became a favorite for UVI faculty and staff, providing hot meals and cold ice when many other establishments were still trying to clean up and get back to business. On Sept. 26, the UVI Café announced that it was open to the public.

“When they walk in it is like an oasis. They go from frustrated down to relaxed,” he said of the customers. “They don’t expect to see this – lights on, hot food, and fresh bread. It is like a home away from home for a lot of people.” The UVI Café served 600 people on Sept. 26, and the wait was about an hour and a half on that day. “The food was excellent,” Allen says. “That was the best part cause if you wait long you want to make sure the food is good.”

UVI Cafe dinning area
Allen is a senior Hospitality and Tourism Management major. He expects to graduate in Spring 2018 with high honors with other classmates who plan to become the leaders in the field in the Virgin Islands.

 UVI CafeThe UVI Café is open from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. for dinner. Customers can have breakfast, lunch and dinner for $30. Persons can have their desserts, salads, entrée, and a drink for $10 for lunch or dinner, he said. Chef Allen prides himself on having healthy menu options that are savory for the palate.

See this link to the UVI Cafe video.

UVI has started a UVI Rise Relief Fund to solicit donations to help UVI’s students, faculty and staff. Text 2017IRMA to 71777 to support this effort or use this link UVI Rise Relief Fund.

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