As the Hendrix campus prepares to reopen, so do the many different departments and services that Hendrix offers. Many students are impatiently waiting to return to their dorms and jobs on campus, but another place that many students are looking forward to seeing again is the cafeteria. The cafeteria is the hub of Hendrix life, and the directors and staff of the cafeteria have been working tirelessly to make sure that the reopening goes as smoothly and positively as possible. One of the most well-known members of the cafeteria staff is Eric Jones, or as students know him, Eric the Pizza Guy. Eric works at the pizza station in the cafeteria and is known for his creative and delicious pizzas, which he makes every day of the week for the enjoyment of Hendrix students. Last week, we sat down to talk about how things have changed and what Hendrix’s favorite pizza Picasso has been up to since the cafeteria shut its doors.
When asked what he thought the most important thing to know about the cafeteria is, Eric said that “[the cafeteria staff] is there for the students no matter what.” He continued that creating pizzas excites him and that he typically caters to student preferences. There are several crowd favorites, including a pesto pizza that frequently graces Eric’s menu. Eric disclosed that he somewhat fell into the role of “the pizza guy” after his supervisors thought he would be good for the job, but he made it very clear that he loves to interact and talk to students about pretty much anything. He believes his job goes beyond just making pizzas and thinks that his position “wouldn’t be as exciting” if students weren’t talking to him. He’s grateful for the chance to break up the monotony of everyday life by really connecting with students.
It’s no secret that the cafeteria staff favors certain meals, and our Pizza Guy is no exception. Eric enjoys the fried shrimp offered on Sundays and the Honolulu chicken. Both are delicious options that students get to look forward to eating again in the spring. Other favorites foods of his include lasagna, a good steak, coconut cake, and caesar salad, most of which are served in the Hendrix cafeteria. Eric also revealed that even though he creates pizzas that the students prefer, he has to stand by his personal favorite pie: Hawaiian.
Like a lot of students and faculty, Eric did admit to being lonely during the quarantine. Thankfully, he does have a hobby outside of creating new and exciting pizzas for Hendrix students. In his spare time, Eric collects antiques. He’s currently focusing on Roseville pottery and can frequently be found in flea markets and antique shops searching for the next addition to his collection.
We spent a fair bulk of the interview talking about how life has changed since Hendrix closed, and it came as no surprise that Eric is excited to come back to campus. He’s “a little nervous [but] ready to have social interaction” and pledges to do his best to uphold all the guidelines the school has put in place to protect students, himself, his fellow staff from COVID-19. Eric feels the stress of isolation just like the rest of us do, and he is “ready to get out of the house and cook some pizzas and see faces again.”
To close, we asked Eric if he had any advice for new and returning students. Eric urges new students to always “try to be open to new experiences” as he knows how transformative and amazing Hendrix is for everyone who comes to stay on the campus. He reminds returning students to “enjoy [their] time here.” Time is fleeting, and even though quarantine and isolation have been going on for months now, time is just as important as it always has been. To all students, Eric recommends following him on Instagram (@eric_thepizzaguy) to be up to date on all of the goings-on at the pizza station and the cafeteria as a whole.
Eric the Pizza Guy is only one member of the fabulous Hendrix cafeteria staff. There are so many other people like Eric, who are working tirelessly to make sure that the return to campus is as seamless as possible. So upon returning to campus, make sure to thank the cafeteria staff and all other members of the various departments and offices that made reopening possible. And on that fabled first trip back to the cafeteria, be sure to swing by the pizza station and say hello to Eric the Pizza Guy. You’ll be glad you did.