Shakedown Staff Keeps on Cooking

A small but spirited group of students gathered in Pitzer College’s demonstration kitchen Tuesday afternoon for a cooking demonstration held by the staff of the Shakedown Café, the on-campus eatery known for its local and organic foods. Undaunted by their recent loss of space, the Shakedown staff showed onlookers how to make chocolate ganache bombs.

Left without a licensed kitchen or operating space during this year’s renovation of the Gold Student Center, the Shakedown was obliged to suspend its business operations for the current academic year. Instead, it is functioning temporarily as a student club and will host a number of free food and cooking events with its Pitzer funding. 

“Right now, since we don’t have a kitchen, we’re kind of trying to find alternative ways to have a Shakedown presence on campus and still keep the community going,” said Emma Shorr PZ ’14, who has worked for the Shakedown since her first year at Pitzer.  

The college administration informed the staff in fall 2012, that the Gold Student Center renovation would leave the Shakedown without an operating space, Shorr said. 

Since California law requires all enterprises selling food to have a licensed kitchen, the eatery cannot currently sell any of its food products. However, since the Shakedown was originally founded in 2007 as a hybrid club-business entity, it can use its club budget from Pitzer to conduct food programming throughout the year.  

Staff members were in steady contact with the administration during the 2012-2013 school year to make arrangements.  

“We really talked at length about what they need,” said Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life Drew Herbert. “And what they don’t need this year is revenue because, frankly, of the large budget they’ve already received from the student Senate.”

“In terms of institutional support they’re getting, it really hasn’t changed this past year,” Herbert added. “I’ve certainly met with them as a club more so than I’ve really met with any other club.” 

Shorr said that the Shakedown was unable to hire new staff members this year due to a lack of business operations so all staffers are returning students. Whereas the Shakedown normally employs around 40 people, this year’s team consists of 25 to 30 students, many of whom are volunteers, according to Shakedown staff member Grace Geller PZ ’16.

“It took us a while to find out if we could offer work-study to our student workers while we were existing outside of our kitchen this year,” she wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “We definitely could not offer as many hours because of this, so many students with work study went to other job offers. Others just accepted volunteer positions due to the limited availability of hours we were able to give.”

Shakedown workers expressed some frustration about the business’ hiatus, but remained optimistic about this year’s programming.  

“This is giving us time to really establish what we want in the Shakedown, to gather a lot of passion and a lot of drive,” said staff member Neeka Salmasi PZ ’16. “This is kind of testing us, but hopefully we’ll succeed.” 

“For me, it’s kind of sad because it’s my senior year and the Shakedown’s been something that I’ve pretty much devoted my life to for the past years,” Shorr said.

Still, she said, the events lined up for this year will provide exciting new opportunities to build community.  

The Shakedown is planning a number of cooking and catering events for the coming semester. In addition to Tuesday’s cooking demonstration, which was the fourth event in the Pitzer Office of Student Affairs’ Fall Cooking Series, the staff will host weekly Sunday breakfasts starting this month. Staffers will also still be participating in the annual Festival of Flavors Oct. 11, which features food from all on-campus eateries.  

“It says something great that they’re trying to reach out, and … to keep the spirit alive and engage students,” said Calypso Jaie PZ ’17, who attended the demonstration.

Benay O’Connell PZ ’16, a consistent Shakedown patron, agreed.

“I think that it’s good that they’re giving an opportunity for us to learn how to make some of the food because they’re not [in operation] this year,” O’Connell said.

She said she was looking forward to the Shakedown’s return to the Gold Student Center when it opens next school year.  

“They’re actually building us a giant, huge new kitchen, which is going to be really fantastic,” Shorr said. 

The kitchen will include updated appliances and supplies. For one, cooks will no longer be cooking off portable burners. 

“To be a chef in there next year … will be a lot more pleasurable than it’s been in the past,” Herbert said. 

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