Erin McGinnis found her passion for food at Pacific Lutheran University long before she was a student or administrator.
“I’ve been here a long time, but every year feels like the first year,” said McGinnis, executive director of hospitality services and campus restaurants. She was first exposed to PLU’s kitchen at 5 years old, as the daughter of a biology professor.
“The thing that really struck me about the kitchen here was that I never wanted to be anywhere else,” she said. “I’ve really found my niche here.”
That niche is providing good food and an even better experience.
“Food is so much more than just a thing,” McGinnis said. “You gather around food.”
At PLU, the philosophy of food involves educating students, faculty and staff about social justice, sustainability and community, McGinnis said. The university works to create a positive dining experience to ensure students are nourished and ready to learn those lessons.
And that positive experience goes beyond the plate. It takes into account conversation, tablescapes and the company.
PLU brings people together in the University Center Commons, where students dine together and with professors and staff members. Dining staff come together around the Chef’s Table in the heart of the Commons to develop recipes, entertain honored guests and cook up new ideas.
Down the street at PLU-owned restaurant 208 Garfield, the PLU community and beyond gather to enjoy each other’s company and products grown, produced or bottled by alumni.
“Gathering around food is so important socially,” McGinnis said. “There are conversations that happen at the dinner table at home, around the table in the Commons, that just don’t happen anywhere else. We see all of those occasions as opportunities to educate our students, to educate our community.”