One Corpus student at Leckhampton eats meals at SelwynLucia/UNSPLASH

An ongoing conflict between chefs and college management at the Corpus Christi kitchen has left students with a reduced number of formals, without breakfast and some without a cafeteria.

Breakfast has been abandoned at the main site, and at Leckhampton, the college’s off-site accommodation, catered food has been scrapped altogether despite students being billed for it. While previously, students were billed as part of an “Establishment Charge”, this year, it has been integrated into increased rent.

However, the apex of students’ discontent is the loss of formals. One student, Zack Hilburn, said this feels like a “loss of the Cambridge experience.”

From conversations with former staff members, Varsity can reveal what led to this situation.

Chris Le-Vien was the catering manager at Corpus for 10 years, but in February 2021 left the College.

While Le-Vien was there, the kitchen became one of the highest performing in Cambridge, with one former Masterchef quarter-finalist in its ranks.

Le-Vien was well-liked and respected at Corpus: former colleagues describe him as a “top bloke.”

However, anonymous sources allege that he left in connection with a series of Christmas formals last December.

The formals took place on three nights from 2-4 December last year. At the time, mixing between households indoors was banned because Cambridge was under Tier 2 restrictions. Corpus nevertheless allowed 50 students to dine together in a marquee where they were able to sit with people from different households at tables of six.

According to former staff, Le-Vien was “scapegoated” for the formals. Given his close relationship with colleagues, this upset a number of people who worked with him.

The College told Varsity that Le-Vien left “by agreement” and “was not dismissed.” They also claim that all events were “subject to careful risk assessment and carried out in accordance with government restrictions in force at the time.”

Sources explain that the discontent was exacerbated by the way the kitchen was run following Le-Vien’s departure.

Former chefs allege that college management prioritised cost over quality. They told us that “the freezers were stuffed.” Fresh ingredients were replaced with bulk-bought food, cakes were shop-bought, and vegetables were pre-cut.

To a team of chefs who have since taken jobs at high-end restaurants, the new management felt like a downgrade.

Sources say that crucial roles, such as pastry chef, were left unfilled despite staff requests that new apprentices be brought in. Despite these requests, personnel gaps were not addressed and frustration within the kitchen grew.

Corpus claimed that these shortages are “small” and “in common with many other colleges.”


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The kitchen has dramatically shrunk in size. There were 13 cooks at the start of summer. Now only three remain.

A Corpus student who lives at Leckhampton told Varsity that he now goes to Selwyn for his meals.

According to sources, the situation is only worsening following the departure of popular head chef, Seb Mansfield, two weeks ago. One ex-employee described him as “the best chef” he’d ever worked with, and said that the staff “get up for him.”

This reputation allowed Mansfield’s kitchen to attract the most ambitious apprentices. Now that he is gone, some fear that the kitchen may be headed for tougher times still.

Chris Le-Vien declined to provide Varsity with comment on this issue.