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Saskatoon Friendship Inn cooks up community from scratch


The Friendship Inn has been a staple in Saskatoon since 1969, but how things actually work behind the scenes may come as a surprise.

Permanent changes because of the pandemic and the diversity of the staff makes this high-volume food service one of the most unique in the city.

“You imagine it, we do it,” Friendship Inn Head Chef Jannet Reynolds told CTV News.

Fresh ingredients are the centre of every meal, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Not a lot is factory-processed or from a package.

“We pride ourselves in doing everything ourselves. We marinate our own meat, we make our own hashbrowns, the potatoes are steamed in our ovens and mashed with elbow grease,” she says.

Reynolds came from the Caribbean, having worked in family restaurants and always wanting to pursue a career in the food industry. She owned a catering company prior to the pandemic, and it closed because of reduced business.

There’s a skilled team working with Reynolds at the Friendship Inn. Those include culinary students from Sask. Polytech, one who is from Mexico and has introduced authentic Mexican flavours into the kitchen.

“The other immediate member of my team is Ishwar and he’s from Pakistan and he’s worked all over the world in five star restaurants. That’s the mix we have here,” she says.

Foods like butter chicken, quesadillas and jerk chicken are served along with Saskatchewan favourites like turkeys cooked from scratch.

Meals are planned two weeks in advance and since 95% of food comes from donations from grocery stores and the community.

That can be tricky, but part of the experience.

“That’s the fun part because I get to walk and see our inventory. Whatever is there, our cooking team brainstorms and makes something delectable,” she says.

A thousand meals are served daily, including breakfast and lunch, with take out meals that started during COVID. It’s a massive operation for the 15 paid staff and 15 volunteers who lend a hand each day.

“We’ve shifted to a restaurant style which works really good. People come in and eat, lineups are reduced,” Sandra Kary, Executive Director of the Friendship Inn told CTV News.

They’ve done away with the long mess hall tables and volunteers carry food to guests rather than a cafeteria line up which started out of necessity when the pandemic started.

It was an experiment that had great results.

“We started to realize this really works and our community is really responding, and this is actually a better way to do it,” Kary says.

Better because some residents prefer to sit alone while others come with a friend or families even come together and can sit at a larger table.

While the food is a big part of what the Friendship Inn is all about, regular volunteer Myra Potter says the place lives up to its name.

“The friendliness of the clients stands out. They want to know my story, there’s a lady here who asks, do you have any grandchildren, do you have any pictures,” Potter said.

Donations of cash are welcomed at the Inn, as well as volunteers. Top Stories

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