Classes, homework, reports, projects, exams, events, repeat. The college experience is never without its share of intimidating phone-book-sized workloads. Diligence is a necessity for excellence, especially at the University of Redlands. That said, it is a universal fact that being a college student is a daily struggle. It’s a difficult and long, oftentimes tedious, path towards a bachelors, masters, doctorate, etc. There are plentiful resources however, that supply much-needed sustenance to get through the day, providing a replenishing pause from the long hours of school work. The Launch Kitchen is one of those resources.
The Launch has been in operation since Fall 2019. Despite having to temporarily close its doors a few months after opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Launch continues to serve as a convenient alternative to going off campus to eat. Both within the kitchen’s modest dining space along with the surrounding tables around Hunsaker plaza, students conglomerate with servings of burgers, salads, poke bowls, chicken tenders, fries, tacos, and other variants of grub to lighten their spirits as they continue their education. Piles of empty plastic boxes overflow from trash cans, a sight that is impossible to overlook wherever one ponders across campus.
Of course, any place that offers lunch of some kind will not escape the dreaded witching hour that is colloquially coined the ‘lunch rush’ at noon. The Launch is no exception. With lines occasionally stretching around the kitchen’s interior, the cooks know they’ve got their work cut out for them, but they also see no excuse to sacrifice quality.
“We see [the line] and we get a little bit of anxiety, but we also remind ourselves that we aren’t fast food. Everything we make here is made to order,” Launch Kitchen manager Berenice Ontiveros says about what separates the Launch from off-campus food options. She elaborates, “I don’t just have a tray of burgers sitting there or a tray of chicken. So we remind ourselves that it’s not fast food, let’s just get it out and get it out correctly.”
With the main kitchen itself, along with a mini-market featuring an assortment of snacks, beverages, and hygiene products (latter NOT for consumption), the Launch’s palette is an affordable and varied one. Entering the Launch, students have the option to obtain food from the kitchen, market, or a combination of both. Students who enter the Launch will be quick to notice the “fence” barring the market’s wares along with the backpack station parked in front of it.
According to Ontiveros and her co-workers, students must place their bags or backpacks there before browsing the mini-market’s wares. “There are a lot of complaints about the backpack thing, but we do have theft that happens. So to help that is to put the backpacks on the outside,” Ontiveros remarks. Despite the mixed reception, Ontiveros confirms that the backpack station has contributed to a decrease in market thefts, making the station a solid, albeit temporary solution to the passively brazen shoplifts. “They’ve gone down from what they used to be, to not so much,” she clarifies. Further security improvements are being considered as of the time of this writing.
Regarding the menu, it’s apparent the Launch has much to offer, and the cooks make it a habit to ever-so occasionally add something new to the table. “We’re trying to have a rotating menu. The burgers and tenders and salads will always stay the same. We might adjust some things, as in a price rise, or we might add some things, but with the Caseros menu, we always rotate that. We try our hardest to make it every semester,” Ontiveros says of the menu’s recurring customization. Students welcomed the recurring additions to the menu. Morgan Irwin ’24 spoke about the appeal of its variety. “If you don’t like one [menu theme] then you can anticipate the next,” she said. According to Ontiveros, a BBQ menu is currently in the works. Since the time this article was written, the new menu has become available.
Even with all these options to choose from, some menu items are more in demand than others. According to Ontiveros, the most popular menu items at the kitchen are the 3-piece chicken tenders and the Jr. cheeseburgers. “There was one time where I couldn’t keep any in stock… those bad boys sell like wildfire,” she says. Other popular dishes include the crispy chicken sandwich and the plant forward burger, a vegan alternative to the Newport Beef patties used for the standard burgers.
For students, pursuing higher education commonly feels like an arduous task. Even a day can entail an endless amount of studying and homework to complete. The Launch not only acts to satisfy their inevitable hunger and quench their thirst, it also helps them to get through the day, providing for them a varied and delightful smorgasbord of food and drink to replenish their collegiate spirits.
Photos by Eleanor Bachmeier and Hayleigh Yeoh.
Wylie Harris is a grad student majoring in Music Composition. He is a practitioner and avid admirer of both written music and written word. Outside of music and writing, he enjoys exercising in the gym, swimming laps in the pool, and taking walks across campus.