Campus Spotlight: Chef Kim Saunders

Monday, November 27, 2023

Family ties add a personal flavor at the West Campus Café.

Growing up with her grandparents is where it all began for West Campus Chef Kim Saunders. From age five, the East Haven native helped her grandmother cook and prepare food for sale - everything from meatballs, chicken soup, lasagna, and holiday pies were all meticulously made from scratch. “No matter what she did, the ingredients came from her own garden straight into the kitchen, with no corners cut!” recalls Kim. “My father was a chef, and I developed a love for cooking from an early age. My Grandmother, who called me Bella, encouraged me to make dishes to absolute perfection – we practiced over and over until it was just right!”

Kim knocked on Yale’s door and, as soon as she turned 16, successfully applied for a third cook position at Timothy Dwight College on Wall Street. To this day she still remembers the phone number of the manager she called about the job! “I wanted to use what my family taught me for other people, but I also wanted a job to help support my grandparents,” she explains. Kim moved to Stiles and Morse colleges serving the students there as a Second Cook. Then it was onto Yale Law School, where she formed a close bond with the students that lasted a wonderful 28 years. “We were such a tight-knit group, really more of a family,” she says.

Now settled into the kitchen at Yale’s West Campus, Kim has never been happier. “The people here have been just wonderful with me. I’ve always enjoyed working as part of a close team, and the one we have here is fantastic!” [We agree Kim! Ed.] Kim’s 42 years at Yale may have flown by, but some things have remained constant. “If I have a favorite dish, it would be our chicken quesadillas. I roast the red peppers, onions, and garlic in olive oil, cool them then finely chop the mixture before adding the chicken and sharp cheddar cheese. My grandmother was fond of making quesadillas, so I try to bring part of that flavor to the West Campus. It’s one of our most popular dishes, so I think our community approves!”

Say hello to Kim the next time you’re at the West Campus Café, open 8am Monday to Friday for breakfast, lunch and an extended bar menu that runs through 6:30pm.

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