Faces to Know: Meet WashU’s Dining Service Workers

and | Managing Scene Editor, Junior Scene Editor

Arguably one of the most important aspects of a college student’s life is food. With a dozen dining options scattered across campus, you’re never too far from your next snack or sip. Washington University dining workers are the driving factors behind keeping the WashU community fed — and almost more importantly, caffeinated. Here are a handful of faces that you’ll see around campus: 

(Emmett Campbell/Student Life)

Amen Ra | Cherry Tree Cafe

Amen Ra was born and raised in St. Louis, fifth-born out of seven siblings. He started working at Cherry Tree as a barista and cashier this year, despite never drinking anything caffeinated himself. 

“I know, it’s a crazy combination — a barista that doesn’t drink coffee,” he said with a laugh. Ra is more interested in people than pastries, anyway. He’s a self-proclaimed extrovert, and says that he’s excited to interact with all the students that come through Cherry Tree each day. “I thrive off of human interaction,” Ra said. 

In times when he needs to recharge, however, Ra typically turns to a family member as a calming presence. “[There isn’t only] one person [that] I turn to. I go to everyone, and they all come to me,” he said. 

(Emmett Campbell/Student Life)

Lillie Westbrooks | Paws and Go 

Lillie Westbrooks has been at WashU for 15 years. She said that she applied for the job with a friend. She got the job — he didn’t. “He’s still my friend,” she said. “And I tell him thanks every time I see him.” 

Westbrooks, a well-known face in Paws and Go and Cherry Tree, said that in the chaos of college life, she tries to bring positivity. “When new students come in, I try to stay [consistent] so they can get that loving energy,” she said. If she feels frustrated amidst the chaos, she’ll step away for a second and then come back. 

Off work, Westbrooks spends time with her son and eight grandkids. They’ll zipline or go bowling. “I’m excellent at bowling,” she said. 

(Holden Hindes/Student Life)

Andrea Webb | Whispers Cafe

Andrea Webb started at Whispers six years ago. Then, she moved to Grounds for Change (which was closed because of COVID until this year). From Grounds for Change, Webb moved to North Cafe (now closed), and finally came back to Whispers as a supervisor. She helps manage a staff that just hired six new employees. 

“Coming back to Whispers was definitely a change because of the masks,” Webb said. “I didn’t get to see smiley faces anymore.” She works 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. typically, but said that since Whispers is now open until midnight, she might have to come back in later if needed. On afternoons off work, Webb is a self-proclaimed sports mom — one son plays plays football and the other is trying out for basketball. “I’m the loudest one on the field,” Webb said. 

(Holden Hindes/Student Life)

Christian Acuff | Danforth University Center (DUC)

Christian Acuff is starting his first year at WashU working in the DUC’s Top 8 kitchen. He was born in France and moved to St. Louis from Washington, D.C. He used to enjoy shawarmas, but after working at the DUC, he can’t look at tofu shawarmas anymore. 

His go-to karaoke song is Tiny Dancer by Elton John. In the week he ‘s been serving the University’s students, he says he has enjoyed his experience. “I had a lady who wanted to get her pesto and mozzarella sandwich toasted, and she was just very pleasant about it,” Acuff said. 

Excited for his first year working in the DUC, Acuff said that “Everybody here is doing their best to do the best for you guys. We really appreciate you all. Without you, we wouldn’t have [our jobs].”  

(Holden Hindes/Student Life)

Connie Johnson | Cafe Bergson

Connie Johnson is entering her 15th year working at the University as one of the supervisors of Cafe Bergson. She has two granddaughters, ages 10 and 14, and three children. 

In her free time, she likes to skate and sing karaoke. When asked where she would live if she could choose any place, Johnson said, “St. Louis all the way, baby. Nowhere else compares, and I’ve been to a lot of places. I lived in Georgia. Florida. St. Louis is my home.” 

Johnson said that with all the staff behind the counter, it can get chaotic and a little cramped. But she’s trying to make her cafe a home for the students. “We all need guidance. We’re here for that, me and my crew,” she said. “We want everybody to know that if there’s anything you need, we’re here for you.” 

(Holden Hindes/Student Life)

Robert Scott | Parkside Cafe

Robert Scott is entering into his 32nd year working at WashU as a cook at Parkside Cafe. A St. Louis native, Scott likes to spend his free time fishing on the Meramec River. 

He relates to the students who come into Parkside on Tuesdays and Thursdays due to a mutual love of St. Louis toasted ravioli. 

Scott prefers coffee over tea, when offered. He typically likes being a part of the team, saying he gets along with fellow employees and, most of the time, the students, too. 

“The places I have worked [at] on campus all pretty much have a friendly staff. You can speak to anybody about your problems,” he said. “We’re always trying to help you out and put a smile on your face and make your day go right.” 

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