Benjamin Wilkinson is passionate about coffee. He loves creating it, describing it and presenting it. Ask Wilkinson where his favorite cup of coffee in Eugene is, he says without hesitation: “UO Dining Services, of course!”
Wilkinson is the Food Services Manager at UO Dining Services, and though some may call his opinion biased, it is not entirely unfounded. Wilkinson is experienced, to say the least, when it comes to coffee.
After working in the coffee business for many years, Wilkinson has become a master of the craft – competing in competitions, both regionally and nationally, (he was a finalist in the Northeast Regional Barista Competition), and working as the general manager of independently-owned coffee shops on the East Coast. Coffee has become a deeply-ingrained facet of his life, and one that prompted a mission: to change the coffee industry.
“It’s often forgotten about and just regarded as an agricultural product one takes daily, as habit," he said. "Yet, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes. There are over 200 steps from seed to cup that have to be taken in order to produce a cup of coffee. Something regarded as so simple to some, is actually quite complex. And this is what enthralls me.”
Because of his passion, it is no surprise that Wilkinson has been the star implementer of change when it comes to the coffee served in UO Dining Services venues. Wilkinson has worked in UO Housing since last April, and is one of the management team members who oversee the Hamilton and Living Learning Center dining areas.
He excitedly describes the single-origin coffees UO Dining serves – coffee that is not blended, and is Fair Trade and organic. The variety of coffees they now serve include spicy Columbian and robust Nicaraguan.
Wilkinson says his staff members are eager to learn about new types of coffee, as well as new techniques to create it. He stresses the importance of manifesting the best product for the customers, and how proud he is to work with such committed, hard-working people, who believe in the power of food and drink just as much as he does.
“Over half the world will wake up tomorrow and drink a glass of coffee," he says. "How much better would our world be if each cup was made with excellence?”
- by Katherine Marrone, University Housing