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Kari Plog '11

Amuse-bouche 150 150 Kari Plog '11


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.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

“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.”

Taylor Railworks 150 150 Kari Plog '11

Taylor Railworks

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU) Taylor Railworks is fairly new to the Portland, Oregon, food scene. Owner Daniel Neely, a former PLU student, said his restaurant offers a selection of specialty vermouths and the dishes don’t shy away from spice.
Lionheart Coffee Co. 150 150 Kari Plog '11

Lionheart Coffee Co.

When she isn’t working on water projects, PLU alumna Lauren Reese ’09 is exercising her creative bug with coffee

Lionheart Coffee Co. in Beaverton, Oregon, doesn’t skimp on the details. The year-old coffee shop features three blends and four brew methods, spotlighting a new local or regional roaster each month.

Everything in the business model is precise. Lauren (Buchholz) Reese ’09 said she and her co-owners measure water and coffee beans down to one-tenth of a gram. They even tested a variety of lid types before picking the perfect one.

“There aren’t very many,” Reese said, noting that they landed on one that offers more “nose room” and mirrors the experience of drinking out of a mug.

Before opening Lionheart in May 2015, Reese’s husband, Ben, had managed coffee shops for a long time. She’s a full-time communication specialist for water resource projects, from international treaties to drought relief. The coffee company helps exercise her creative bug, she says, allowing her to design menus and plan events.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

“It’s a labor of love,” she said.

One night, while Reese enjoyed dinner with friends, the coffee shop transformed from a daydream to reality. A year and an online crowdfunding campaign later, Lionheart was born. The result is a community-oriented shop that prioritizes atmosphere, experience and quality, Reese said.

The lover of coffee said she is on a temporary hiatus from coffee herself, with a baby on the way. “I already have a list of coffees I’m going to have as soon as I give birth,” she quipped.

But she’s showing her love in other ways, providing TLC to the products and the customers who love coffee as much as she does. A standard morning at Lionheart includes plenty of visits from a growing base of regulars from all walks of life: church groups, students, creative types and more.

Events there underscore the shop’s dedication to building community around coffee. In June, for example, Lionheart will host a quirky competition called a Latte Art Throwdown, during which competitors will show off their milk-pouring skills to create beautiful designs that float on the top of patrons’ cups. It’s a popular competition in Portland, and Lionheart will be the first to host an installment outside Portland-proper, Reese said.

“People are willing to come to Beaverton from Portland,” she said. “It means they trust us.”

Other events and activities include adult coloring parties and cold brew tastings.

Through Lionheart, Reese said, she and her husband are living out what they are meant to do.

“We’re definitely not doing it for the money,” she said. “Every day it’s worth it.”

Natalie McCarthy ’09
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Natalie McCarthy ’09

Elite rower, PLU alumna continues showing up, competing on world stage with goal of achieving Paralympics gold

TACOMA, WASH. (March 24, 2016)- Natalie McCarthy ’09 lost her vision when she was a child, but that hasn’t stopped her from showing up. And she’s continued to show up all the way to the world stage.

McCarthy spent the evening and afternoon of March 15 and 16 — her birthday and the day after — at Pacific Lutheran University talking to students about the importance of always showing up.

“That’s half the battle,” she said.

The athlete-at-heart has maintained a deep passion for rowing that took her from the PLU crew team all the way to the world championships.

McCarthy, a member of the varsity crew team from 2005-09 and recipient of the Frosty Westering Inspirational Award her senior year, has so many elite para-rowing honors that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

She’s a three-time gold medalist at the Crash B Indoor Rowing Championship, three-time gold medalist and course record holder at the Head of the Charles Regatta, two-time national team member, and bronze medalist in the 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju, South Korea, among other accomplishments.

McCarthy stood at the head of Dr. Colleen Hacker’s class this month and told students about classification requirements in the Paralympics, exhaustive nonstop training and her experience serving as a representative on the Athletes’ Advisory Council, which broadens communication between the U.S. Olympic Committee and active athletes competing in the games.

But mostly she talked about using failure as a catalyst for success.

“It’s never been an option for me to quit,” she said.

Success hasn’t come easy. McCarthy was “rejected” — as she describes it in her own words — the first year she attended selection camp for the U.S. Paralympics rowing team. That didn’t drive her away.

“I didn’t feel dejected,” she said. “I walked away feeling like it really lit a fire under me.

“I wasn’t going to quit.”

That fire is still burning, and McCarthy is working as hard as ever to qualify for the Summer Paralympics in Rio later this year. It took a lot of hard work to get there. She has been rejected six times from the national team. At one point, she worked a part-time job to give herself the time needed for intense training. Then a pivotal moment took McCarthy’s dedication to the next level — just 0.2 seconds separated her from the 2012 Paralympic games in London.

“I was chasing that top-notch success,” she said. “I was going to go until I didn’t love it anymore.”

So, she quit her job, left her family behind and moved to Oklahoma City to train full time with the country’s best coaches at top-caliber facilities.

“I ate, slept and breathed rowing for almost a year,” McCarthy said. During that time, she often talked on the phone with Hacker, a repeat Olympics coach herself and professor of kinesiology at PLU. The pair talked through the mental challenges facing McCarthy.

“It paid off,” she said. “Standing on the podium and getting that medal, it’s worth it.”

Hacker said McCarthy is a close friend and an elite athlete. McCarthy’s passion is very evident, Hacker told her former student in front of a class of current Lutes.

“I can see it in you,” Hacker said. “It’s your life. It keeps you going.”

McCarthy said she talks almost every day about what she learned in her sports psychology class at PLU, taught by Hacker. She said it is where she learned how to deal with both successes and failures.

“Natalie has all of my esteem and respect,” Hacker said.

Moving forward, the rower is still set on the ultimate goal: getting to the Rio Paralympics, and hopefully taking home the gold.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said, following a deep sigh of cautious optimism. “It’s been a very long road.”

Rebekah Blakney '12
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Rebekah Blakney ’12

PLU alumna collects, studies mosquitoes in the pursuit of improved public health

TACOMA, WASH. (March 9, 2016)- Mosquitoes are pests to some, but for Rebekah Blakney ’12 they carry a wealth of information that can unlock solutions to global health issues.

Now with the outbreak of the Zika virus, that’s as important as ever. Blakney isn’t at the forefront of Zika research, at least yet, but she’s contributing to work that aims to educate and inform people about infectious diseases.

The third-generation Pacific Lutheran University graduate conducts backyard surveillance of mosquitoes in Atlanta, where she works as a field manager at Emory University. Her team collects and identifies the insects, working in and outside the lab studying the spread of West Nile virus.

Blakney said it was PLU’s commitment to global citizenship, social justice and environmental conservation that helped her discover her vocation in public health.

“It’s easy to get lost in numbers and statistics,” she said. “Having had that encouragement at PLU to think about social justice and environmental concerns helps humanize the numbers.”

Blakney long assumed she would go to medical school. But after a study abroad experience in Panama and Costa Rica, she realized she wanted to make a difference on a larger scale.

“It made me realize I’m more interested in medicine on a population level,” said Blakney, a former cross-country athlete who studied chemistry and biology at PLU. She eventually went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin.

It was abroad that Blakney learned about the problems facing developing nations. She saw Panamanians with parasitic infections, primarily a result of poor water quality and sanitation. She saw how simple yet inaccessible preventive treatment was for the locals and decided she wanted to dedicate her life’s work to similar issues.

Blakney’s recent field of study is new. Previously, she focused on hospital-acquired infections.

“It was a big transition but I’ve really enjoyed it so far,” she said of the career shift. “This was a great opportunity to combine epidemiology with environmental ecology.”

Her day-to-day work includes studying birds and various species of mosquitoes, seeking to understand what keeps West Nile prevalent in Atlanta. The professors who run her lab have global connections, and have been consulted frequently as Zika continues to spread. There are no vaccines or medications available for Zika, which has spread rapidly through South and Central America. Cases have popped up as nearby as Thurston County, though Zika hasn’t been widespread in the United States and is typically contracted during international travel.

Although she isn’t doing Zika research now, Blakney said she hopes to be involved in it down the road: “I’m very interested in Zika. I think it is something that people are going to be looking into for many, many years.”

West Nile research at Emory University

Learn more at the Kitron Lab

For now, she will continue to do important field work, something she says keeps her connected to people in her community. She is working with her boss to develop a surveillance project for the Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger) mosquito in Atlanta starting this summer, prompted by the concern over the spread of Zika and Chikungunya, another viral disease.

“It enables us to look into what are the local contributors to breeding patterns,” she said. “There’s a lot of very important things to be done right now.”

Tasting Menu 150 150 Kari Plog '11

Tasting Menu

Vineyard icon

Wine Pairing

Labor of Love

Benson Vineyards Estate Winery tells heartfelt story from vine to bottle.

A misty-eyed Scott Benson ’96 examined a single bottle of Ruby Port with a nostalgic grin on his face. The velvety dessert wine with the perfect amount of sweetness tugged at his heart strings.

Standing in a chilled storage room surrounded by cases of wine, Benson said the Ruby Port is named after his grandmother. “It was a labor of love and a fitting wine for someone like her,” he said.

The port was a three-year project, and Grandma Ruby never got the chance to drink it before she died in 2010. But her sweet memory lives on every time someone uncorks a bottle.

“It’s a tribute to my Benson family roots,” Benson said.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

The heart that went into producing the port epitomizes the story told from vine to bottle at Benson Vineyards Estate Winery in Manson, Washington, overlooking the shores of Lake Chelan — great tasting wine made with a whole lot of nostalgia.

“We’re family here first and foremost,” Benson said.

And the wine tastes as profound as the story behind it. The port is buttery and intense, yet simple. It begs for drinkers to bury their noses deep in the glass to investigate all the flavors.

Betsy Kronschnabel, the tasting room manager at Benson Vineyards, said the best word to describe it is “jammy.” The first taste reminds her of black cherry cordials, the flavorful fruit covered in velvety chocolate.

“Starting with the nose, it smells warm and really smooth,” she said. “Then you sip it — it’s very fruit forward.”

Scott Benson and his wife, Rebecca (Gilge ’98), met at Pacific Lutheran University in Tingelstad Hall. They lived a floor apart. Scott graduated in 1996, earning a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in political science. Rebecca graduated with an education degree two years later. She teaches fourth grade in Chelan.

After working a technical job at Boeing right out of college, Scott Benson changed course and the pieces started falling into place for his future in the wine business.

“We made a very abrupt plan to move down to Willamette Valley,” a region in Oregon known for its wine, Benson said of him and his wife. There he studied winemaking and vineyard management at Chemeketa Community College.

Around that time, his parents bought the 30-acre property where Benson Vineyards stands today. The farmland was covered in red and golden delicious apples. Chelan didn’t have an established wine industry then. Now, roughly 30 wineries dot the lake’s edge.

“There’s not a lot of people who come to Chelan for the apples,” Benson said. They come for tourism, camping, boating and time shares. Wine seemed like a natural fit, he said.

In late 2001, Scott and his wife moved to Chelan to begin work on the winery he and his family were building from the ground up — literally. They moved 33,000 cubic yards of dirt, erected a collection of stucco buildings and transitioned apple orchards into acres of wine grapes of many varieties.

“We had to build the infrastructure,” Benson said. “We did all the work ourselves.”

The first harvest year was in 2004, which yielded about 800 cases of wine. Now, Benson Vineyards produces up to 5,000 cases of wine each year. About 70 percent of the wines produced are reds, the other 30 percent are whites.

About 27 acres is dedicated to 20,000 grapevines. Benson Vineyards is 100 percent estate grown, meaning all the fruit is produced on site. “It’s a story for us,” Benson said. “We wanted to really showcase Lake Chelan.”

(Photos by John Froschauer, PLU)

The Bensons go beyond simply showcasing the area; they make it hard to leave. Natural light and breathtaking views flood the upstairs tasting room, with French doors that open to a tranquil balcony overlooking the sweeping grapevines, snowcapped mountains and glassy water.

Grassy lounge areas intersect with perfectly placed brick walkways and patio furniture fit for wasting the hours away (though, it’s hardly wasted time).

People come for a good time, stay for the views and return for the wine.

“There’s a story from vine to bottle we can tell here,” Benson said, stressing that visitors can see the entire process in front of them as they sit and sip. “We don’t have any secrets.”

The property is open practically year-round, Benson said. It hosts concerts and charity events. But it isn’t your grandma’s winery; the Bensons unapologetically describe it as a party destination. It isn’t unusual, for example, for so-called Parrotheads to enjoy a bottle of wine along with the musical stylings of a Jimmy Buffett tribute band. It’s all about kicking back and having fun, because it is Lake Chelan after all, Benson said.

“The louder we are, the more wine we sell,” he quipped. Stuffiness was never in the playbook. “We de-emphasize the restrictive nature of wine.”

The Bensons say they aren’t trying to appeal to the perfect palate; they’re trying to appeal to everyone. It wouldn’t be much of a party otherwise.

That said, Benson and his employees can talk intelligently about their wine and its production. They know the rules well enough to break them — but not too much. Walking through the rows of wine barrels and talking about the science of it all, Benson’s nerdy side comes out. But he likes to keep all that stuff behind the scenes.

“It’s just wine,” he said. “When it’s sunny like this, I don’t want to think too hard about it.”

Benson and his wife stress the importance of giving back to others, and the couple is committed to fostering community. Charity events centered on education are especially important to them, as is a local group called Chelan to Africa. Started by a local doctor, the organization raises money to support a small orphanage in Lesotho. The Bensons will host a seventh annual charity event for the group this August. They say their commitment to community service was born at PLU.

“We take care of our family, we take care of our employees and we do our best to take care of the community as a whole,” Scott Benson said. “That’s really important to us.”

Rebecca Benson says her husband also takes care of his employees, paying living wages and creating a place where people want to come back and work year after year. Workers even call the winery “our place,” she said. “Scott works to make that true,” she said.

Scott Benson said it’s the right thing to do and it’s simply good for business: “We can’t do what we do without good people.”

Benson Vineyards wine is sold at various places east of the Cascades. On the west side, it’s a bit tougher to find. PLU-owned restaurant 208 Garfield carries it, as does Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia. But to soak in the scenery and the full story, a trip to Lake Chelan is a must.

“If you want it, you gotta come here and get it,” Benson said. “Nobody tells the story like us.” The view speaks for itself.

Benson Vineyards Estate Winery

754 Winesap Ave.
Manson, WA

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Second Course

Sunny Side Up

Fried Egg I’m In Love serves up breakfast sandwiches with a side of silly humor seven days a week along a bustling sidewalk on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, Oregon. The sandwiches are carefully crafted, with any dietary restrictions or special requests in mind, but the jokes are non-negotiable.

“We’re doing our part to keep Portland weird,” said Jace Krause ’04. “We’re kind of weird guys ourselves.”

Krause and his business partner, Ryan Lynch, started the food cart in 2012. Back then, Krause said the goal simply was to avoid going broke. Fast forward four years and the duo isn’t just feeding hungry mouths and paying the bills, they’re a popular addition to the Portland food scene. They were even featured on an episode of the Food Network show “Eat Street” in 2013.

“I wanted to create a job for myself where I could be myself,” Krause said.

That took a lot of hard work and missed weekends in the beginning. For the first couple years of business, Krause and Lynch worked six days a week without vacations. Now, they have a full staff of employees and work three days a week. The rest of the time they dabble in creative projects, primarily making music with their band Fort Union, and managing food cart logistics.

“We saw where it was going, so we knew we were on to something,” Krause said of the early days. “I feel like we paid our dues. We worked very hard.”

Music is Krause’s passion; it’s what brought him to PLU, where he earned a communication degree. He writes songs, sings and plays guitar for Fort Union, which just released a new album ( He also can play piano and played saxophone in the PLU Jazz Band as a student.

Krause makes a different kind of music at Fried Egg I’m In Love when he’s donning an apron and juggling spatulas. The sounds of silverware clanking and eggs sizzling on the grill accompany Zambian psychedelic rock music blaring through the speakers and the chatter of delighted customers as they get their hands and faces yolky.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

Customers sing out orders with names that most would recognize (and chuckle at): the Little Gritchard, the Sriracha Mix-A- Lot, Free-Range Against The Machine, the Egg Zeppelin and the sandwich that started it all, the Yolko Ono. The latter recently was named one of the five best breakfast sandwiches in Portland, Krause said.

The rules for naming the food cart’s creations: it has to be a song, band or album name and it has to be “punny.”

“The one that makes us laugh the hardest wins,” Krause said of the brainstorming sessions.

Krause said his food cart focuses on locally sourced products, from regionally harvested eggs to the ingredients in their homemade spicy aioli.

“There are so many people in Portland doing awesome stuff,” he said. “It would be a shame not to feature that.”

Krause said people imagined something much simpler when he uttered the words “food cart;” “a hot dog cart on the sidewalk” they thought. But there’s nothing simple about what he and his business partner do.

“It’s basically a restaurant in a trailer,” he said. “We always say we work hard and play hard.”

It’s often busy. On weekends, they cook eight to 10 eggs at a time nonstop from 9 a.m. until they close at 3 p.m. (the food cart is open 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays). Krause loves chatting with regulars in the process. His friends are his customers and his customers are his friends.

“Food always brings people together,” he said. “It brings me joy to make them food. I’m taking care of them in a way.”

Krause doesn’t just take care of his regulars. He says homelessness is prevalent along Hawthorne. To help in some way during the holidays last year, he and Lynch took donations for local shelters and one day after closing time cooked a hot meal for people off the street. They fed about 50 people, and the plan is to make it an annual effort.

“It’s easy for us to make food,” he said. “Everyone needs to eat.”

Krause doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he works hard to please his customers.

“I always make sure there’s a perfectly cooked egg on every sandwich,” he said. When he has time to enjoy breakfast himself, Krause said he prefers his eggs scrambled, though he admits his scrambled eggs are nothing like his grandma’s — which he says are perfect. That’s how he got started with eggs.

“I haven’t perfected them yet,” he said, laughing. “I’ve gotten really close.”

But most days Krause said he’s shoving a breakfast wrap into his mouth in between filling orders — a wrap specifically designed for quick eating, he said. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s hard to believe this is my job,” he said. “It’s gone so far beyond anything I could’ve imagined.”

Fried Egg I'm In Love

3207 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR

Carrot icon

Palate Cleanser

Journey to the Shelf

Lutes raise awareness about the story behind food and the disconnect between production and consumption.

Maya Perez ’16 saw students’ eyes light up with curiosity as she worked with them at a local community garden. The kids, ranging in age from fourth to eighth grade, gained a new appreciation for food access after experiencing what life might be like with a lack of options and money.

They were told to make grocery lists and pick berries to earn imaginary money to purchase their chosen items. At the end of the exercise, many of the kids realized they didn’t have enough money to buy everything they needed. They were left asking themselves, “what now?”

“You can see it in a visceral sense,” Perez, a sociology major at Pacific Lutheran University, said of the results. “You could definitely see the wheels turning.”

The exercise, part of a summer internship for Perez, was meant to get kids thinking about issues related to food consumption, to break the cultural mindset that food “magically appears” at the grocery store, she said.

“It is about finding that connection to the food you’re eating and who is producing it,” Perez said.

Kevin O’Brien, PLU’s chair of environmental studies, said the key is people learning the story behind their food and asking if they’re comfortable with that story.

“The easiest and most damaging habit is thinking that food comes from a grocery store,” said O’Brien, who is also an associate professor of Christian ethics. “Go to a grocery store and be aware.”

This concept isn’t just foreign to schoolchildren. The disconnect between consumers and the food they buy and eat is a very real issue for many people of all ages. Responsible food consumption is a complex, and at times polarizing, issue. It is often overwhelming for advocates who wish to change their habits and the institutions that helped formed those habits.

For Perez, O’Brien and others, the first step is learning and talking about the food industry.

Perez said her food advocacy has evolved over time, and she takes steps when she can to reduce negative impacts on the food system, the people within it and the environment. She’s a vegetarian, she composts and she does her best to understand where the food she buys comes from, accounting for potential use of child labor and other factors. She is mindful of what produce she buys, what season she’s buying it in and where she purchases it, and she tends a garden when she can.

But Perez acknowledges that there’s no perfect solution to all the problems related to industrialized food. Those problems include overly processed products that cause widespread health issues, environmentally harmful chemicals and inadequate wages for a dwindling population of farmworkers.

“It’s a tricky situation to shop ethically at all,” Perez said. But it’s important for people to avoid getting wrapped up in guilt, she added. “Take mindful, intentional steps forward. Start talking about it.”

O’Brien said that’s an important piece of the puzzle to avoid being overwhelmed by a vast and complicated issue.

“Don’t try to do everything. Do something,” O’Brien said. “The best place to start is where you are. We can all do something.”

One manageable step for O’Brien was becoming a member of a CSA, which stands for community supported agriculture. Members buy a share of a farm’s harvest, pay per year and receive a basket of food each week in return.

Fresh vegetables in a wood basket

In a good season, members get a variety of healthy, locally sourced produce that came from a farmer they know. In a bad season, they’ve invested in a farmer whom they want to stick around for future harvests. O’Brien said he’s bought a share at Zestful Gardens, a Tacoma-based organic farm owned by PLU alumna Holly Foster ’96, for about seven years. He said she is always growing something, even in less fruitful seasons.

“It’s an investment, and it’s insurance on their part,” O’Brien said of the annual cost. “I know she’s going to grow. She can always grow something.”

O’Brien said CSAs are becoming more popular. Beyond providing healthier food and a healthier environment, O’Brien said buying local and knowing the farmers who sell the food creates a community bond people don’t get from the corporate food system.

“Food is best when you enjoy it with other people,” O’Brien said.

Perez and O’Brien agree that early childhood education is a huge factor in sparking change in the food industry. Perez said it’s important that children understand where food comes from and how it affects the people who grow, harvest, purchase and eat it. That helps plant the seed for a commitment to caring for the earth, Perez said.

PLU alumna Nicole Laumb is already hard at work planting that seed. The 2011 graduate said her first experience growing food herself wasn’t until her mid-20s, just a few years ago. Laumb worked for a school garden program in Fort Bragg, California, while working with AmeriCorps.

“Up until that point, I had purchased every head of lettuce I’d ever eaten wrapped in plastic,” she said. Since then, Laumb has bounced from a goat farm in Eatonville, Washington, to a startup farm in Northern California, followed by the after-school enrichment program where she teaches today. There she runs garden-related classes for children.

“I don’t want the next generation to have to wait as long as I did and that’s why I took myself off the farm and into a classroom,” Laumb said. “I want kids to have an understanding of their consumption, environmental practices and where food comes from at an early age.”

For those who are already wrapped up in the food system, Laumb said, small steps can be taken to initiate change. She urges everyone, when it’s feasible, to start a backyard garden. She said that intimate experience with food, if widespread, will spark a cultural shift.

“Seeing what it takes to make something grow gives you more of an empathy for that process,” Laumb said. “Once you’ve done it and sweated through it, there’s an inherent change that takes place.”

Don’t try to do everything. Do something. The best place to start is where you are. We can all do something.

She also said people should try to purchase food locally when possible. Her definition of local means food that was grown or produced within 100 miles of where it’s sold, though she noted that’s not necessarily an option for everyone.

Luke Gillespie, a senior environmental studies major, said his advocacy focuses on the people with few options – or none at all. He said food deserts, or the unequal distribution of food in urban areas, are problems nationwide. That means many low-income areas don’t have any grocery stores, and a collection of liquor stores and convenience stores often stand in their place.

Gillespie has devoted his senior capstone research to the issue, and plans to make his work available to local organizations that are equipped to tackle the problems associated with food deserts.

“If there’s anything you can do, understand your place in the food system and acknowledge that place might look different for people who are in more vulnerable positions,” he said.

Gillespie, as with most advocates for a more sustainable food system, doesn’t have all the answers. But he said the solutions lie with members of affected communities. People in privileged positions who want to help should listen, not talk, he said.

“Without listening,” Gillespie said, “I wouldn’t understand the problem as well as I do today.”

Raddish icon

Third Course

Plating Perfection

PLU alumna Lisbet Halvorsen creates her own recipe for success and the result is ravishing

Lisbet Halvorsen ’90 wasn’t satisfied working in the restaurant business without stepping foot in a kitchen. So, she decided to create her own recipe for success.

“I’ve just learned by doing,” she said one sunny Saturday as she hustled and bustled to prepare for a private tasting and a wedding.

Halvorsen is the owner and founder of Ravishing Radish, a Seattle catering company with 15 full-time employees and roughly 100 on-call workers. Her business specializes in full- service events, providing clients everything from rentals, music, flowers, linens and quality Northwest-inspired food prepared with local ingredients.

“We’re basically a one-stop shop,” Halvorsen said. “We focus on everything for an event to come together.”

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

Halvorsen worked in the food industry before and after studying public relations and English at PLU. She tried for a long time to break into the kitchen. When that effort and a monthslong job search in the communication field hit a dead end, she decided to take control of her destiny. Halvorsen started sharing a kitchen with the people who launched Taco Del Mar, back when it was a small operation, and got cooking. In the beginning, she focused on boxed lunches.

Fast-forward a couple decades and Halvorsen now boasts an impressive reputation, one that landed her a catering gig with the Clinton Foundation last year. She poured wine at Hillary Clinton’s table.

“It was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done,” Halvorsen said, laughing. The Democratic candidate vying for president of the United States ate halibut that night, she added. “She thought it was lovely.”

Ravishing Radish currently shares a kitchen space with Pyramid Catering at Capitol Hill’s Immaculate Conception Church.

The church kitchen emphasizes utility. It bustled on a recent Saturday afternoon before a wedding scheduled at the Fremont Foundry. Transport trucks and equipment hummed as the smell of freshly prepared food and fresh-cut flowers wafted through the room.

Halvorsen quickly ran between the kitchen, her office and the liquor closet, getting ready for a tasting with future clients. No details were missed in the tasting room: candles flickering, wine uncorked and ready to be poured, and perfectly placed menus on pearly white platters.

Ravishing Radish

(Photos by John Froschauer, PLU)

Halvorsen worked in the food industry before and after studying public relations and English at PLU. She tried for a long time to break into the kitchen. When that effort and a monthslong job search in the communication field hit a dead end, she decided to take control of her destiny. Halvorsen started sharing a kitchen with the people who launched Taco Del Mar, back when it was a small operation, and got cooking. In the beginning, she focused on boxed lunches.

Fast-forward a couple decades and Halvorsen now boasts an impressive reputation, one that landed her a catering gig with the Clinton Foundation last year. She poured wine at Hillary Clinton’s table.

“It was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done,” Halvorsen said, laughing. The Democratic candidate vying for president of the United States ate halibut that night, she added. “She thought it was lovely.”

Ravishing Radish currently shares a kitchen space with Pyramid Catering at Capitol Hill’s Immaculate Conception Church.

The church kitchen emphasizes utility. It bustled on a recent Saturday afternoon before a wedding scheduled at the Fremont Foundry. Transport trucks and equipment hummed as the smell of freshly prepared food and fresh-cut flowers wafted through the room.

Halvorsen quickly ran between the kitchen, her office and the liquor closet, getting ready for a tasting with future clients. No details were missed in the tasting room: candles flickering, wine uncorked and ready to be poured, and perfectly placed menus on pearly white platters.

Once she finished setting the ambiance, she shuffled over to the fresh-cut lilacs and arranged centerpieces for the wedding buffet. The flowers came from the yard at her home on Bainbridge Island.

Nobody working that day walked. There’s no time to waste for staff who sometimes cater up to five weddings a day. Ravishing Radish caters hundreds of events each year all the while experimenting with new dishes and hosting public tastings for as many as 150 people.

Sometimes the masterminds behind the beautiful dishes get to eat their creations. A quick sample of the prosciutto- wrapped Yukon gold potatoes was a welcome treat on that hot afternoon.

David Thomas, a sous chef who was hard at work dressing up a plate with a red-wine reduction sauce, said just about everything on Ravishing Radish’s menus is made from scratch. The short ribs are a fan favorite — the dish is “over-the-top, all- the-time” good, he said. It’s an all-day process to make the ribs: braising the meat, straining liquid, reducing the sauce and more.

The result is worth it — a dish Halvorsen said melts in your mouth and doesn’t require silverware.

Staff members slow down and soak in the good stuff when time allows. Halvorsen said she holds Champagne Fridays, during which employees drink bubbly and try new recipes the team dreams up.

“We eat well,” she said.

She said her employees set Ravishing Radish apart from other catering companies. They care deeply about the clients and are passionate about providing the best experience possible.

“Everyone has fears,” she said. “We try to understand their fears and make it seamless for them the day of.”

Presentation also is a priority. The company’s motto: “Food is art.”

“Food nourishes us and keeps us alive,” Halvorsen said, “but it’s more than that to me.”

Part of that includes the experience people have when they gather around a table at an event. Halvorsen said it’s important to her to see people bonding over food during milestone moments, such as a wedding.

She said Ravishing Radish often will cater a rehearsal dinner and a reception, really getting to know the people being served. “We’ve hung out with them at their most intimate moments,” Halvorsen said. “We feel like we’re a part of the family.”

Ravishing Radish Catering

1801 E Marion St.
Seattle, WA

Sundae icon


Sweet, Surprising and Sentimental

PLU alumna Kim Malek’s ice cream shop serves up quirky dessert and an experience to be shared.

The lines at Salt & Straw in Portland, Oregon, are often long, but nobody standing in them complains. Instead, people smile big with anticipation and mull over the tough decisions about which flavors to choose.

“We don’t use lines to gauge success,” said Kim Malek ’93, co-founder of the ice cream shop that has skyrocketed in popularity since it opened five years ago. “But we are excited about what happens in our lines.” She’s heard stories of job offers, marriage proposals and many requests to buy cones for others — everything that makes the strong community Malek hoped would define her ice cream shop.

“We overstaff our shop with the hope that each team member can take an extra moment, share the story of our ice cream and really take care of someone,” she said.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

Malek said her desire to foster community with ice cream started with her experience at Pacific Lutheran University. The communication major said leaving a tight-knit campus, where everyone knew professors and classmates well, encouraged her to find that same atmosphere in her professional life.

Malek worked at Starbucks — which was a small company with 30 stores at the time she started — on and off for about 12 years, doing marketing and communications work. Part of that time she was stationed in Portland, a city with a sense of community she hadn’t experienced since college.

“I’ve always had this dream of opening an ice cream shop in Portland,” she said. “It seemed like a great place to open one.”

Apparently, she was right. Salt & Straw started as a pushcart in the city’s Alberta Arts District. It has since grown into a wildly popular small-batch, handmade ice cream chain with three stores in Portland and two in Los Angeles. The company just opened a new concept in Portland, too, called Wiz Bang Bar that focuses entirely on soft-serve ice cream.

Salt & Straw’s menu changes every four weeks, and the flavors highlight Oregon companies and ingredients. They epitomize the city they were born in: unapologetically weird with local flair.

Pear and Blue Cheese flavor features Southern Oregon-based Rogue Creamery blue cheese that entices people with the perfect amount of savory. Strawberry with Honey Balsamic and Black Pepper takes you on a roller coaster of flavor, starting with sweet and ending with a subtle punch of spice. It’s made with honey balsamic produced by a fifth-generation beekeeper right outside Portland, Malek said.

Bean and Cheese Burrito flavor is unexpectedly delicious. It mimics the taste of a churro or Mexican fried ice cream, with notes of cinnamon and crunchy pieces of tortilla chips.

But Malek said people say the strangest flavor is Bone Marrow with Smoked Cherry. She describes it as a marriage of sweet and salty. “It’s almost like a cocktail,” she said. “Someone in town made a cocktail based on that flavor. It comes back when cherries are in season.”

All the flavors are developed through close relationships with the companies that inspire them; artisans, tea companies, breweries, coffee roasters and more.

“Ice cream is a great way to reflect the local food scene,” Malek said. “It’s really meaningful to have that relationship behind each flavor.”

No matter what flavor people choose at the end of the day, Malek said, it’s all about enjoying the ice cream: “Going for ice cream should be a really good experience.”

Salt & Straw

3345 SE Division St.
Portland, OR

Discovery 150 150 Kari Plog '11


Rick Barot says his work as a poet is a direct product of his time spent teaching at Pacific Lutheran University. And that work is gaining a lot of recognition these days.

“We try to act on our values as an institution,” said Barot, associate professor of English and author of the book Chord. PLU’s authenticity and commitment to “critical seeing,” he said, affects his writing.

His book, a collection of poems, recently won the University of North Texas Rilke Prize. Additionally, Barot is the recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, one of only 175 awarded throughout various disciplines. Both are high honors in the writing world, Barot said. Those are in addition to a PEN Open Book Award, the Thom Gunn Award from the Publishing Triangle, and recognition as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

“You really are a product of your environment,” Barot said. “It’s an affirmation for PLU, as well.”

Barot said his publisher submitted Chord for the Rilke Prize, a $10,000 prize that recognizes a book written by a mid-career poet who demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision.

“I won without even knowing I was in contention for it,” Barot said.

Barot and the other fellowship recipients were announced last month. They were chosen from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants, based on achievement and exceptional promise. The fellowships are meant to give people the free time needed to pursue projects, Barot said.

Chord has been a longtime coming for Barot. He started writing the collection of poems in 2005. After 9/11 and the beginning of the Iraq War, Barot reflected on global tensions. Despite the somber inspiration, he said the themes run deeper.

Rick Barot Poems

“It’s a dark book with a kind of hopeful lining,” Barot said. He hopes Chord forces readers to think. “What I’m interested in is poetry of disruption. Poetry that complicates your notion of what is around you.” He said that includes confronting problems, as well as trying to escape from them.

“It is a way of reminding people that poetry is interested in complicated things,” he said.

Barot said the Rilke Prize and the Guggenheim fellowship, among his other honors, affirm the value of his long and difficult work. PLU has immersed him in the world of poetry, he said, providing a catalyst for conversations with his students that inspire his growth as an artist.

“That’s part of my everyday life as a teacher,” Barot said. “We have a dialogue that feeds my work.”

Additionally, Barot said his poetry mirrors the mission of the university – a commitment to thoughtful inquiry and social justice. His advice to aspiring writers is to read widely and write a lot. As a young writer he journaled daily.

“Process the world through language,” he said.

Barot has won awards for his writing before, but the Rilke Prize and the Guggenheim fellowship are on a different level, he said.

Barot said it’s been overwhelming (in a very good way) to have all these awards drop at once. He isn’t planning to slow down. He’s already working on more poems and a collection of essays about poetry.

“I’ve been given the encouragement and momentum for the next phase of my life. As a writer, as a teacher and as a citizen,” Barot said. “This isn’t about resting on your laurels. It’s an invitation to do even more.”