By Geralyn Wichers

Fresh-baked muffins at the Culinary Exchange./Geralyn Wichers

Cantonese Vegetable Chow Mein from the Culinary Exchange at the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute./Wichers

There’s a culinary school serving food just down the road from Red River College’s Roblin Centre, but you wouldn’t know it by the Tim Hortons lineup.

Yes, a culinary school. You know, the sort of place where they teach people to cook things with skillets and saucepans and port-wine reductions, not microwaves.

The Culinary Exchange at the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute sells things like Cantonese Chicken Chow Mein, and Spicy Jamaican Jerk Chicken with mango salad, but many students have never been there.

Cody Cabers, a Graphic Design student, gets his lunch “at the only place in the campus, which is Tim’s.”

Graphic Design student Chloe Brown buys yogurt and smoothies at the Red River Mercantile. “I try to pack as much as I can, but we’re here until six o’clock some days,” she says.

Renata Rea, a business administration student, usually packs her lunch too, or buys from Tim Hortons. “It’s winter. I don’t want to go outside.”

The first sunny hints of spring are hitting the Exchange District, so here are five things you’re missing by not getting lunch at the Culinary Exchange.

1. Fresh Fruit and Veggies. Yes, fresh-cut fruit cups and salads that you can grab and go. Let’s be honest. Are we getting our 7-10 servings from the onions on our Merc dogs?

2. Smoothies and milkshakes. Does a blueberry energy smoothie with chia ring any craving bells? No? How about a chocolate shake with whipped cream and a cherry on top?

3. Restaurant-quality food. The students churn out delights such as House-made Bacon and Pineapple Pizza, Vegetable Pad Thai with Rice Noodles, and Lamb Vindaloo for ten bucks a plate.

4. Fresh baking. Enough croissants, cinnamon rolls, muffins and cookies to make your eyes bulge.

5. Sunshine and fresh air. Don’t underestimate the power of a short walk in the fresh air, and lunch eaten in the sunny dining hall at the Culinary Exchange. It may just chase away the remnants of your winter blues.

Check out to see what’s on the menu this week