Kitchen work is a joy for Dobbins cook

March 24, 2011

ERIE, Pa. -- Dan Hutchins is a breakfast guy. As a cook at Dobbins -- the dining area at Penn State Erie, the Behrend Campus -- he arrives at 6 a.m. to start preparing the kitchen for a day of big student appetites.

The morning routine includes setting up the kitchen for breakfast and preparing menu items that students enjoy. Hutchins's breakfast shift runs non-stop right through 10 a.m., then he prepares for the lunch crowd.

Hutchins has been working at Dobbins for 13 years. He was born and raised in Erie and has always enjoyed working with food. He said he especially likes working at Dobbins because he can learn about what food students like and figure out how to cook it up for them.

"It's great to interact with students," he said. "It's fun to learn from them, think outside the box and come up with something that everybody likes."

Cindi Pander, Dobbins manager, said that Hutchins excels at serving the Behrend community and working with student employees. Cindi said she can tell that Hutchins enjoys teaching students the tricks of the trade in the kitchen.

An enthusiastic learner himself, Hutchins enjoys gaining knowledge about everything there is to know about kitchen work. He has trained at several conferences and workshops and has brought back several ideas to Dobbins that the dining area uses today, including its popular wok bar.

"Dan is not culinary-trained," Pander said. "He is self taught and thrives on learning. He is the kind of employee you love to send to conferences and workshops, because he comes back with a lot of knowledge."

Hutchins is at home in the kitchen. He believes breakfast should be more than just frozen waffles and cereal. He is the reason Dobbins takes breakfast to another level. Students love the wide-array of choices, from flavored made-to-order oatmeal to an omelet bar where students can choose from vegetables, steak, chicken, cheeses and more.

"It's nice for a student to be able to switch things up," Hutchins said. "When I first started, things were made from big batches. There was only one (choice) all day. Now you can get so many different options."

Pander said that Hutchins makes her job easy. He is always available to help and is routinely offering new, creative ideas.

"Just this morning he poked his head into my office and suggested crepes," Pander said. "His mind is always working."

"I tell people that (Dobbins) is the fine-dining of cafeteria cooking. We offer really great menu items here. Things that alumni never had when they were here," Hutchins said. "It's a joy to come to work."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 30, 2011