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Suzanne Goin ’88 hosts cooking event, discusses culinary career

Goin hosts Ratty “Chef Dinner Night,” cooking demonstration for students

<p>During a Wednesday fireside chat hosted by University Health and Wellness, Brown Dining Services and Brown Cooking Club, Suzanne Goin ’88 spoke about her nontraditional career path and offered advice for students interested in pursuing culinary careers.</p>

During a Wednesday fireside chat hosted by University Health and Wellness, Brown Dining Services and Brown Cooking Club, Suzanne Goin ’88 spoke about her nontraditional career path and offered advice for students interested in pursuing culinary careers.

Suzanne Goin ’88 – a James Beard award-winning chef, author and restaurant owner – collaborated with University Health and Wellness and Brown Dining Services to host a “Chef Dinner Night” at the Sharpe Refectory Thursday. On Wednesday, Goin also put on a cooking demo for students in on-campus culinary organizations and spoke at a fireside chat, followed by a book signing and reception.

Goin said Thursday’s menu — which consisted of short ribs, winter squash and semolina olive oil cake, among other delicacies — was influenced by seasonal produce and local foods. Cornbread, for example, is “very Rhode Island,” she said. 

On Thursday, Goin worked alongside the BDS staff to help prepare the evening’s meals. “It’s a really great group of people and a great team,” she said. “The hard thing is trying to figure out … the process of how things work.”

She added that scaling the size of production to serve the student population proved to be a challenge. “I tried to think of certain things (to cook) that scale better,” Goin said. “Even for a really large group, I try to maintain the same techniques or standards that I do when I’m cooking for a small group.”


Talks for a collaboration between Goin and the University began late this summer, wrote Stephanie Abbott-Pandey, executive assistant to Executive Director of Health and Wellness Vanessa Britto, in an email to The Herald. After “learning of Suzanne’s interest in connecting with students on the Brown campus around food and community meals,” Health and Wellness began meeting with BDS every week to plan for the collaboration. 

“I just have such fond memories of being (at Brown) and I love cooking,” Goin said in an interview with The Herald. These events “felt like a really fun moment to link those two things together.”

Goin began her career in the restaurant industry during her senior year of high school, when she decided to knock on the door of a Los Angeles restaurant, Ma Maison, and ask for work in their pastry kitchen. 

As an undergraduate, Goin worked as a server and cook at Providence’s Al Forno. “I just loved that restaurant. … It was such an amazing part of my experience here,” she said, adding that her job allowed her to go beyond College Hill and get to know Providence locals while at Brown.

“It’s why I love working in restaurants,” Goin said.  “I love that time when we’re all there together … talking with people and getting to know each other and sharing what’s going on with your lives.”

After graduation, Goin entered the restaurant industry, despite the opposition she faced from both her professors and her father — who didn’t speak to her for six months after her career decision. 

“It felt like this secret, illegal thing I wasn’t supposed to do,” Goin said, explaining that the idea of a “celebrity chef” wasn’t commonplace 35 years ago. “But I really, really wanted to” pursue a career in the industry.

During Wednesday’s fireside chat, Goin offered advice to students interested in pursuing a nontraditional career path. “Life is a winding road,” she said, “and you do need to follow” your ambitions.

Claire Fan ’25, marketing and social media director for Brown University Cooking Club, said she was particularly touched by Goin’s interest in what the current undergraduates were doing. “It’s super cool to meet and talk to alumni that are also in that (culinary) field, especially since they’re doing something a little more creative,” she said.

“What I really took away is (the importance of) … adding a human element to the cooking fine dining industry,” said Jon Zhang ’24, Cooking Club’s outreach coordinator.


“Creating community and sharing meals are some of the greatest joys in life,” Abbott-Pandey wrote. “We hope Suzanne’s visit will help students further connect with themselves, trusting themselves to follow their own path, as Suzanne did, as well as connect with each other both during and after the program.”

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Jennifer Shim

Jennifer Shim is a University News editor overseeing the staff and student labor beat. She is a sophomore studying Applied Math-Economics. Outside of The Herald, you can find her playing NYT Connections.

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