After cooking for the Jesuits at Seattle University for 17 years, Margaret Garrett chuckles whenever Natch Ohno, S.J., exclaims, "Oh, my favorite!" Father Ohno offers this excited proclamation no matter what the meal.
Head cook Garrett, along with coworkers Mary Odegaard and Kip Kniskern, are the trio of culinary aces at the Arrupe Jesuit Residence on campus. They have the distinction of knowing what it takes to win compliments from a crowd of hungry priests. Among the 28 Jesuits who dine at Arrupe, some have discerning palates, others dietary restrictions. Yet universally they appreciate a good home-cooked meal.
As Rector Pat Howell, S.J., says, "The problem with going out to dinner is that you miss the best meal in town."
Arrupe chefs Margaret Garrett, Mary Odegaard and Kip Kniskern
Arrupe meals are served buffet style, a bit of a logistical challenge for the cooks because not all the priests are available to dine at the same time.
"It's not like a restaurant or a home meal where everybody eats together. So when I nail it and everything is ready at just the right time-making that happen is what's most enjoyable for me," Kniskern says.
There's plenty of give-and-take among the three cooks and each has certain responsibilities. Odegaard and Kniskern split their days of work. Odegaard, now in her 14th year cooking for the Jesuits, is the designated "lunch lady." Kniskern, the relative newcomer with six years as a cook at Arrupe, handles the dinner shift. Rounding out the team, Garrett cooks lunch and dinner three days a week. She also orders all the food, buys kitchen equipment, keeps the breakfast tray filled with scones and muffins. In the kitchen with the cooks are SU students who discover that washing dishes isn't so bad when you get to eat dinner and cookies, too.
While each cook took a different path to the Jesuits' kitchen, they all arrived with well-tuned gastronomic skills. Garrett's destiny solidified when she became a cook for fish processors, Yukon River tugs, mineral exploration camps and Prudhoe Bay oil field camps in Alaska for 17 years. Then she heard about the job at SU (where she completed the Master of Nonprofit Leadership program in 2008).
Odegaard has a range of cooking experience that spans more than 30 years and includes whipping up breakfast and lunch for more than 100 tots at Cascade Children's Corner, a South Lake Union day-care provider, and managing the kitchen at Women's University Club in downtown Seattle. When she heard about the job at Arrupe, she knew it would be a great match for her skills.
Kniskern did restaurant work until he became assistant kitchen manager for on-campus food agency Bon Appétit for a few years prior to joining the staff at Arrupe. He would respond to calls from the Jesuits' kitchen when Garrett and Odegaard needed backup help, so it struck him as a good fit when the job became available.
Each meal they prepare features a couple of entrees along with side dishes. The cooks agree that roasted caramelized carrots, burgers and BLTs fly out the kitchen door.
"They can't have enough BLTs. I could be making them all day long," says Odegaard.
Dressed salads with unexpected ingredients such as pine nuts, blueberries and arugula are big hits, according to the cooks. Speaking of greens, Garrett plants a huge garden in her West Seattle yard, not only for herself but also for the Jesuit community. That makes salads all the more enticing, especially during the summer.
Alumni and Men's Basketball Chaplain Dave Anderson, S.J., rhapsodizes about all the healthy salads and what he says is the best Sunday brunch in town. Ask him for specifics, though, and he lauds the Friday clam chowder, Garrett's famous breakfast scones and his favorite among birthday cakes, German chocolate. When Philosophy Professor Emeritus James Reichmann, S.J., turned 90 earlier this year, he requested lemon cake with lemon icing for his celebration.
Funny thing about those birthday cakes. Just about every Jesuit has a preference, which Odegaard meticulously keeps track of because she's the one who personally makes each celebratory dessert. Director of Campus Ministry Mike Bayard, S.J., gives special credit to Odegaard for her homemade birthday treats. (STAY TUNED: In a future edition of The Commons, we'll share the preferred birthday treats of each SU Jesuit.)
"Just about every Wednesday morning, you can find Mary in the kitchen making the birthday cakes for that evening's birthday celebration. Each Jesuit gets to choose his favorite birthday dessert. If you order a cake, be assured it will be homemade. No one receives an out-of-the-box birthday cake," he says.
Bayard doesn't stop there, though.
"I also appreciate Mary when she makes bratwurst and sauerkraut for lunch. She always lets me know when this is on the menu because she knows my Milwaukee roots and how I love my brats!" he says with unbridled enthusiasm.
Garrett is definitely up to the challenge when she hears, for example, that Vice President of Mission and Ministry Peter Ely, S.J., has a fondness for Thai food and Indian curries. That's what makes her work rewarding, she says.
"I'm still learning, still creating even after 33 years of cooking for people and that's really important to me. That personal joy I get when I make something I've never made before," she says. "Plus, I know the love and joy I bring to my job is part of what makes this a home for the Jesuits. I'm not cooking at a restaurant, not a catering company. This is their home."
A few campus Jesuits like to hang out in the kitchen. Garrett has fond recollections of Visiting English Professor Hugh Duffy, S.J., when he was here from Ireland between 2006 and 2012.
"I miss him! He came in the kitchen every morning, made oatmeal in the microwave and we'd talk," she recalls. "Those were wonderful conversations we had."
Arturo Araujo, S.J., a native of Barranquilla, Colombia, would pop in the kitchen and make coffee with a sprinkling of nutmeg for Garrett before he said Sunday Mass at Christ the King Parish in North Seattle. She would have a Sunday brunch baked good ready to share and they'd take time to chat.
Memories of Jesuits who have passed are no less vivid.
The afternoon snack of choice for the late Francis Logan, S.J., was biscotti, according to Garrett. Even at age 100, he would skip this treat with his coffee, however, if he worried he might be gaining weight.
The late William LeRoux, S.J., known for his resounding voice as well as his 40 years on campus, had a habit of making it known when he was especially happy with his dinner.
"He'd open the kitchen door and in that booming voice of his he would announce, 'That was mah-velous!' It always made us feel appreciated," Odegaard says.
Garrett laughs about the warnings she continues to receive from former Fine Arts Adjunct Professor Jack Bentz, S.J., who returns to Arrupe occasionally from his home base at Gonzaga University in Spokane.
"He says to me, 'We've discussed this, Margaret. You don't cook things I like when I have to go out for dinner,'" she says.
Odegaard adds, "The Jesuits have such a good sense of humor, I love working here. We're treated so well and I feel I have found my professional home."
Kniskern agrees. "You can't get a more compassionate and appreciative audience than a houseful of priests," he says.
That brings us to Garrett's prized breakfast scones. The recipe had its beginnings in a Julia Child cookbook, but Garrett did investigative research and tinkering to make it her own. She discovered a scone with a better texture at the now-defunct café known as Animals on 12th Ave.
"I was told to keep the butter as cold as possible before baking. That made a big difference," she says.
She continues to play around with the recipe by trying different flours, adding nuts and fruits and adjusting the flour-to-sugar ratio.
"One time I forgot to put the sugar in at all," she says. "I just called them 'sugar-free scones.'"
She recently experimented with a way to cut down on the amount of butter needed by adding a little flax meal.
Margaret Garrett's Ad-libbed Scones
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups white whole-wheat flour (see note)
¾ cup flaxseed meal (see note)
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup cold butter (8 tablespoons)
Zest of one orange
1/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water and drained well
1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional, see note)
1 cup cold buttermilk
Cinnamon/sugar to sprinkle as topping
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Mix flours, flaxseed meal, baking powder, brown sugar and baking soda in work bowl of food processor or large mixing bowl.
- Cut butter in small chunks and place in bowl with well-mixed dry ingredients. If using a food processor, pulse to cut butter into dry ingredients until it resembles large crumbs. If using a large bowl for mixing, cut butter in with pastry blender. If there are still a few large pieces of butter, work them in by hand.
- Place ingredients from food processor in large mixing bowl and stir in orange zest, well-drained cranberries and optional toasted pecans. With fork, lightly stir half the buttermilk into bowl of ingredients, adding more as dough starts to pull together.
- Use your hands with a pulling and kneading motion to bring all the dough together. If it's a little too dry, add a few tablespoons more buttermilk.
- Form dough into log on floured counter or cutting board. Using knife or pastry blade, cut dough into five equal portions. Shape and pat one of dough pieces with your hands into round disk. Then cut into 4 equal triangles. Repeat process with remaining dough and place on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon and sugar or raw sugar on scones before baking. Bake scones 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 20 1½-ounce scones.
Garrett uses Bob's Red Mill flaxseed meal and King Arthur unbleached white whole-wheat flour for her scones.
You can use any chopped dried fruits or nuts as substitutions. Or try adding ½ teaspoon almond extract.
Garrett says most cooks should be able to figure out how to toast pecans, but just in case, before chopping them, bake on cookie sheet at 275 degrees 10-15 minutes or until they brown a bit. Let cool completely before adding to dough.