Gwinn Commons is not just a place to gather and sit with friends. It is a place students at SPU can find rest and indulge in Gwinn’s meals after a long day of work or school.
The lights get a little warmer as it grows darker outside, and the sounds of the day’s musical tracks blare over the sound of starving students ready to dive in.
Yes, the lines might be long, but the staff at Gwinn work hard to trade the empty pan of pesto chicken for another fresh batch.
Students have the option of chicken curry most Thursdays, a wide variety of toppings to spice up the salad bar and a gluten free section of muffins and cookies for those with dietary needs.
Senior Destinee Nelons, going on her fourth year eating at Gwinn Commons, is one of the many vegans who appreciates a bit of variety as she dines the usual amount of two times a day.
She said nothing but great things about the plentiful fruit bar at breakfast and homestyle potato cubes, but wishes there was more offered to her as vegan. Her favorite dish is the vegan coconut curry, a dish that regrettably only likes to make an appearance a couple times a year.
It is no secret that Gwinn is capable of whipping out some amazing dishes, but sometimes, it seems like this only happens a couple times a week, depending on preference and pickness of each guest.
Second-year Gabe Keeffe admits to being a picky eater and mentioned that it can be hard to sprint through the gates of Gwinn every night when he never knows what exactly he can expect. Some days, the chicken patties with buffalo sauce are available, and other nights, a favorite dish like pizza lacks sauce and flavor.
While everyone spoken to said that the quality of Gwinn’s food was strong, they did mention that the quality can oftentimes be an inconsistent occurrence. Whether this is based off of the preference of particular individuals or some other factor, there is still always something worth eating on any given night of the week.
While Nelons admitted that it is hard to be a vegan at Gwinn, she did say that it has progressively gotten better every year.
She says that Gwinn does well at immediately responding to the comment cards people write, mixing things up at the stations soon after. Something she is very thankful for is the salad bar, which comes as a great source of nutrition for her when she adds salad to rice and veggies.
Freshman Davis Flintoff, a member of the track team, agrees with Nelons, noting that the salad bar at Gwinn is world class.
What some might call a warm hug, and others feel in a handshake, the freshness and overall quality of Gwinns dishes can provide in their biscuits and gravy, roasted ham and sweet desserts. Quality is proven by the cleanliness of the kitchen, intense prep time of a minimum two-and-a-half hours for each meal and the expert planning that goes on behind the counters.
One complaint from Flintoff, however, addresses the difficulty that comes with every station: the delicate process of grabbing a little from each one, but never quite coming across one that is fully filled with food.
Manager and known jokester Ernest Johnson showed off all of Gwinn’s fully functioning ovens and prepping stations within the kitchen, sharing that Gwinn is “one of the cleanest kitchens” he has ever worked in.
Touring the kitchens of Gwinn, Johnson showcased the dates of organic produce in the refrigerator as he also pointed out their shipping address. All ingredients are local and from the state of Washington, direct, fresh and culled for absolute quality.
Johnson also explained how food allergies and restrictions are marked when chefs create each portion for breakfast, lunch and dinner, displaying the massive variety of combinations on his computer, prepped with labels, ingredients, calories, nutritional facts and any warnings for those with allergies.
And yes, calorie counts for the various dishes are accurate, Johnson confirmed.
Sodexo works through Gwinn and SPU to bring visitors, residents and faculty the best possible combinations of food. Sodexo’s award-winning and evidence-based wellness program stresses healthy indulgence rather than deprivation, as stated by its online statement. Sodexo’s Energy & Resources business faction have been developing accommodations in life and wellness for communities in over 40 countries since 1966, not just feeding starving college students, according to SodexoInsights.
Johnson shared that Sodexo and Gwinn make a great effort to purchase all of the food and ingredients from local farmers markets and dairy farms within the state.
Fresh herbs are important to the menu, and the strong commitment to purchase local, seasonal produce whenever possible, as well as trying to minimize inorganic and organic waste. This claim comes straight from Sodexo, and was verified by Johnson, as he confirmed the shipping address of local foods and clean living conditions within Gwinn’s kitchen.
He explained that the goal of Gwinn is to make everyone feel immediately welcomed and at home when they step through the threshold to refuel their bodies.
“You’re not our customer; you’re our guest,” he said.