The Global Café is packed with students during lunchtime. The air is buzzing with conversation and students stand in line, eager to get their food. Others sit at tables, eating their meals as they review notes and talk to friends.
Steffan Winbush, the executive chef of the Global Café, smiles at the scene, proud of his handiwork.
“A long time ago, I learned that you don’t cook for yourself, you cook for your client,” Winbush said. “As long as the client’s happy, I’m happy.”
Winbush has been a chef for 24 years, and has worked for Sodexo for the past eight. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and went on to work in New York, Washington D.C., New Jersey and various southern states.
Over his years, Winbush worked alongside chefs from Africa, India, Japan, China, the Philippines, England, Germany and the United States. He even cooked for people like President Clinton, Tom Cruise, Whitney Houston and Robert De Niro.
But when he joined Sodexo, he shifted his culinary focus onto students. He loved that everyday he could see the difference he made in their lives.
“With the students, you can see the immediate response. You can be interactive with the students. That’s why I chose higher education,” he said.
Last year, he applied for the position of executive chef at USC’s Global Café and got the job. “I’ve been in a melting pot of locations,” Winbush said. His experiences have shaped his cooking style to be varied and versatile. The Global Café, which is a culmination of different styles of cooking, seemed to be the perfect fit.
Winbush explained that the Global Café has healthier options for students. Though he originally learned to cook French cuisine, which is notably rich and heavy, he has used his experience in other areas to make recipes healthy. The Global Café uses fresh fruit and vegetables from local farms and is conscious of what ingredients are put into meals.
“I feel that higher education gives me the most satisfaction,” Winbush said. With close interactions with the students, he can see how his cooking affects their lives.
He spoke of last week, when he created a personalized menu for a student. She has severe dietary restrictions, and can barely eat anything on campus. While Winbush cannot do this for everyone, he seeks to make life easier for all students.
“Education is great because you see people at the epitome of their life, just starting out in the real world,” Winbush said. “You can cook for them and give them a sense of warmth and comfort.”
Winbush looks forward to his career at USC. “Down here, the students are friendly. They give you feedback. Most of it’s positive, but I welcome negative feedback also, because it helps us to improve.”
Everyday, he works to make his clients, the students of USC, happy.