Student-Led Off-Spec Vegetable Café Salle à Manger Tokai

Café Salle à Manger is run by students of the Tokai Gakuin University Department of Nutrition and Dietic Science. Some of the vegetables carefully grown on rented abandoned farmland by students are deemed unsellable but are used in dishes and desserts. They not only convey the taste of the season but also the importance of tackling food waste.

Students tackling food waste run the café


The Café Salle à Manger Tokai is located in New Building 3 at Tokai Gakuin University’s West Campus. At first glance, it may seem like an ordinary café, but it is run by students from the Department of Nutrition and Dietic Science who are responsible for cooking and serving customers. The menus include drinks, desserts and local dishes made from off-spec vegetables.


In 2016, a project was initiated to gain knowledge about a sustainable society, and that’s where it all began. In 2017, students began making compost from vegetable scraps in cooking classes. In 2018, they used the compost to grow vegetables.

However, about 40% of the vegetables that were grown did not meet the required standards and therefore could not be shipped. To avoid wasting vegetables that would otherwise go to waste even after they were utilized in markets, food drives, and children’s cafeterias that are run as student projects, a group of students leveraged their knowledge of nutritional science that they learned at the university to turn them into snacks. Initially, they produced snacks in a workshop that had a confectionery manufacturing license. They then sold these snacks from a food truck at various events in the prefecture. However, they still had leftover vegetables that could not be used up, so they obtained a restaurant business license. This ultimately led to the opening of Salle à Manger Tokai in April 2023.


The students grow around 20 different types of vegetables a year. Students may find vegetable farming unfamiliar, but Sakine Nishio and Nanami Kuroda, who run the café, find it just as rewarding as making snacks.


“We grow vegetables while getting advice from JA Gifu and Gifu local residents. It can be challenging to tend to the farm every week during extreme weather conditions, but cooking the vegetables we grow makes the work rewarding. Our vegetables are sold under the Tokai Gakuin University Brand in local supermarkets, but they sell out quickly due to our small shipment size. If you’re able to find them, consider yourself lucky.”


“As we’re not experts in farming, we often end up with a lot of vegetables that are not up to the mark. Our desire to reduce waste led us to open our café.”


The vegetables they produce received a three-star rating in Greenhouse Gas Reduction Visibility verification by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The greenhouse gas reduction rate was calculated based on cultivation data that involved minimal or no use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. This resulted in a 54% reduction for carrots and an 87% reduction for radishes, Chinese cabbage, and sweet potatoes. In response, the snacks and menus have been offered with a three-star visibility label since October 2023.

Communicating the importance of tackling food waste through meals and desserts.


The café’s menus are created by the students, who expertly blend seasonal local and off-spec vegetables to offer reasonably priced dishes. The café is bustling with locals during lunch, serving food that rivals that of professional chefs. Teruaki Kawai, the head chef of the café, aims to serve seasonal flavors to customers.

“I would like to recommend our desserts that are made with carrots. Our best-selling desserts include the chocolate tart, which contains carrot paste in the batter, and amazake and carrot canelé. We are particularly proud of our ‘phantom carrot cheesecake,’ which is made using a traditional recipe that has been passed down for half a century in the department,” says Kawai.


In April 2023, they started serving afternoon tea with an awareness of the gorgeous appearance to make the café more appealing to the younger generation who are less aware of food waste. They are also mindful of annual celebrations, events, Japanese culinary heritage, and local cuisine. In December of the same year, they introduced a Christmas afternoon tea. The three-tiered cake stand was sumptuously adorned with sweet potato cream tree cookies and baked sweet potato and carrot madeleines.


Kawai hopes to raise awareness about food waste through their tasty food and desserts. We cannot help but anticipate that the efforts of young people like them and initiatives that boost regional vitality will spread nationwide.


Salle à Manger Tokai

Address 5F, West Campus New Building 3, Tokaigakuin University, 5-68 Nakakirinocho, Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture