After two years hiatus, Pitzer’s Grove House kitchen reopens

Students sit and converse at tables inside the Grove House.
The student-run Grove House kitchen returns as a staple of Pitzer’s dining and campus life. (Khylah Pugh • The Student Life)

This October, Pitzer College’s Grove House kitchen officially reopened for the new school year.

The Grove House kitchen hosted a soft opening just prior to fall break in mid-October, then officially opened for full service the following week with its hours from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m, Tuesday through Friday. Currently, the Grove House communal space has been open for use since the beginning of the school year. 

A classic example of the Arts and Crafts architectural style that was popular in early 20th century Southern California, the Grove House was purchased by Pitzer College in 1976 for the price of one dollar to serve as a campus center for the then-nascent college.

Now, the Grove House features rooms and couches students can hang out in, along with a kitchen entirely staffed by student workers across the 5Cs, with the exception of manager Zenia Gutierrez, who handles the budgeting and logistics. 

After pandemic closures, last spring, the Grove House kitchen was given the go-ahead by Pitzer College to reopen in February, according to Grove House caretaker Max Sweeney PZ ’23. However, due to the process of hiring, paperwork and restocking the kitchen, the opening was delayed until April. 

The hiatus delayed the reopening and growth of the Grove House kitchen in what Sweeney refers to as a loss of “institutional memory.” Due to the graduation of experienced student workers, he cited a large number of new hires that required training for the kitchen to rebuild.

“The Grove House kitchen is definitely a bit different because we lost a lot of that memory, a lot of how things ran. We’re having to rebuild a lot, so I think we’re taking things slow,” Sweeney said. “It’s exciting, but it’s also just a lot of work to get everybody up to speed and on board and on the same page and create a cohesive unit with so many new people.”

According to Sweeney, workers are encouraged to explore different roles in the kitchen like service meal prep, food sourcing and catering. They are also able to provide input to management and work towards a solution for improvements in the kitchen, creating what Sweeney calls a “horizontal workplace.”

“Because it’s student-run, working in the Grove House has been so much fun for me,” Grove House employee Olivia Buist-Thuillier PZ ’25 said. “I think there’s a little bit more of an intimate connection between the students who work there and who are coming to eat, and that’s really beautiful.”

“I think there’s a little bit more of an intimate connection between the students who work there and who are coming to eat, and that’s really beautiful.”

Olivia Buist-Thuillier PZ ’25

Regularly sourcing ingredients from local farmers, the kitchen serves its staples of sandwiches, salads, and breakfast burritos that are usually dependent on what they have in stock, Sweeney said. Students are able to mix and match those ingredients to build their meal.

“I think that if there was one mission statement for the [kitchen], it would be to provide a safe and lovely, warm and comfortable space that people can feel at home in and have really good food, ” Buist-Thuillier said. 

The Grove House space is primarily used as a shared community and study space which is also available for student organizations to use. As the caretaker, Sweeney is responsible for the upkeep and management of the space, as well as working as part of the kitchen staff.

“What really drew me [to working at the Grove House] was the community and how inviting and kind everybody was there,” Sweeney said. “I really get such a wonderful opportunity to facilitate community building … and [make sure] it gets appreciated as accessible by the community here at the colleges.”

Through hosting events for 5C organizations and hiring students from across the colleges, Sweeney says the House sponsors and focuses its energy on fostering a sense of comfort and placehood at Pitzer and at the House.

The Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) identity group previously organized the Stand with Iran event at the House in early October. In an upcoming event, they are partnering with Students for Justice in Palestine in hosting an event to raise awareness and create liberation for Palestinians. 

One of the lasting traditions of the House is the Groove at the Grove, where student music groups and local bands are invited to perform in live music events. The Grove House has previously collaborated with affinity groups like the Pitzer Latinx Student Union and the Pitzer Black Student Union to host a Groove at the Grove. 

“The Grove House is there to build a welcoming community for everyone,” Sweeney said. “We do that through the way we interact with people, the way we take care of our community by making good food, the way that I, as a caretaker, and the people that work in the Grove House, try to be welcoming and make sure that the space is available for different student organizations to use.”

“The Grove House is there to build a welcoming community for everyone.”

Max Sweeney PZ ’23

Sweeney encourages students interested in hosting an event, looking for the House to cater their event or even working at the Grove, to attend committee meetings, which are every Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The meetings are open to all students, who can vote on student initiative proposals alongside the Grove House staff.

To Buist-Thuillier, the Grove House is a good place to “have a nice time.”

“It’s a place to relax a little bit, have a nice meal, have some coffee, tea, whatever you want,” Buist-Thuillier said. “You can order a teapot instead of an individual tea … I feel like that’s really representative of what Grove has kind of aimed to do in the atmosphere … gather, share some tea together.”

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