Contest brings home cooking to Leonard

Christina Stubbs and daughter Erica, ArtSci ’09, cook together in Leonard caf.
Christina Stubbs and daughter Erica, ArtSci ’09, cook together in Leonard caf.

For Erica Stubbs, ArtSci ’09, last Friday, Leonard Dining Hall smelled like home.

The cafeteria was filled with the aroma of homemade curried chicken and sweet potatoes, prepared for students by Erica’s mother, Christina Stubbs, who was ensconced in the international food kiosk wearing an apron proclaiming her as the winner of the “Cooking Countdown.”

Stubbs donned the apron after being flown to Kingston by Queen’s Food Services as part of her prize for winning the newly-introduced contest. Sodexho, the food provider that operates the majority of campus food venues, introduced the contest—held on campuses all across the country—as part of a new initiative to get parents involved in their son or daughter’s university experience. Students were asked to submit their favourite home-cooked recipe for a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip for their parent to visit them at university and prepare their recipe in the dining hall for all the diners to enjoy. Erica said the best part of the Cooking Countdown was the time spent with her mother.

“I wouldn’t have been going home for Reading Week,” she said. “It’s nice to get to show her what Queen’s is all about—she’s never been here before.” Upon learning about the contest, Erica said she immediately knew what recipe she wanted her mother to submit.

Christina Stubbs, who lives in Nova Scotia, originally got the recipe from a family friend living in England. She altered the ingredients a bit and quickly made it a family favourite. She added she usually only cooks on weekends. “I like the food to be appreciated,” she said. “I prefer cooking for people and entertaining.” Christina Stubbs had an appreciative audience in Leonard Hall, surrounded by huge stainless steel appliances and a team of assistants doling out plates to a line of eager students.

The contest’s first run garnered a significant response from students. More than 270 recipes were submitted to the contest, prompting the organizers to serve several of the dishes in the dining halls the week leading up to Stubbs’ grand finale. Carl Hanna, Leonard Hall unit manager, said sorting through all the recipes was the most challenging and time-consuming part of the whole process. Steven Pace, ArtSci ’09, said he appreciated the week-long break from the usual rotation of cafeteria food, and the chance to sample new dishes.

“The food’s been a lot better this past week,” he said.

Steph D’Aguilar, ArtSci ’09, agreed.

“[The contest was] exciting, because home-cooked food is usually a lot better than cafeteria food.”

Hanna said students can expect to see the Cooking Countdown become an annual event on campus.

The contest’s organizers were thrilled with the outcome and the student response, he said.

“We’ve had excellent feedback,” Hanna said. “It’s been very successful.

“The staff are having a great time working with [Stubbs] in the kitchen.” Hanna said he is unsure whether staff would be considering serving the recipes after this week. Normally, the dishes prepared by Food Services come from a U.S./Canada-wide database of recipes which are tested by a corporate chef, he said. It is the popularity of the food with the students that determines which dishes are kept in the rotation. “Ultimately we want to serve the best food, the most popular food and what the students want,” Hanna said.

Christina Stubbs’ Chicken Curry with Sweet Potatoes


• 2 cups coconut milk
• 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
• 6-8 tbsp red curry paste
• 3 tbsp brown sugar
• 6 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
• 28 oz. seasoned tomatoes
• Can tomato paste if needed
• 2-3 large sweet potatoes
• 1/4 cup dried apricots/apples/raisins


1) Place coconut milk, stock, curry and sugar into a large saucepan—bring to a boil.
2) Add chicken and potatoes and boil for 2 minutes, then reduce to simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked.
3) Add tomatoes and apricots and cook for 10 minutes.
4) Add tomato paste and bake in oven for 15 minutes at 350.
5) Serve with rice.

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