In her position as Director of Spartan Terrace Restaurant, Jenn Loiacano gets to do two of her favorite things every day—teach culinary classes and plan events. She’s overseen operations of the student-run restaurant since joining Elgin Community College in January 2017.
“Working hands-on in the restaurant, which serves as my classroom, as culinary students polish their fine dining skills is very rewarding,” said Loiacano. “I also get to use my creative side to develop and execute unique events that are held in Spartan Terrace. This is the perfect job for me.”
Loiacano grew up on a farm, which cultivated her passion for family, food and hard work. “I was an active member of the local 4-H organization growing up,” she reflects. “I have such wonderful memories of projects, the summer fair and trying to earn those blue ribbons. My kids are now in 4-H and they show lambs like I did growing up. It’s been fun to spend quality time with them while they learn important life lessons firsthand, and it’s special that they enjoy doing something that was a big part of my childhood, too.”
“I believe that it’s important to volunteer and give back. I have been involved with the McHenry County 4-H Youth Foundation for the past three years, and it gives me a great sense of fulfillment. I encourage everyone to pick an organization they believe in and work to make it even better.”
We caught up with Loiacano to learn more about her life and her work at ECC. Here is what she had to say.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you’ve been here?
The ECC Culinary Arts and Hospitality department has a long-established exchange program with Tourism School of Semmering, a culinary school in Austria. I am proud of the fact that I will be one of the exchange program’s chaperones this coming February (2019), accompanying selected culinary students to Austria. It is quite an honor to be entrusted to participate in this program.
What’s on your “bucket list?”
I would like to visit Paris, learn a second language, move to a small hobby farm and go sky diving.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love both cooking and baking. Chicken Marsala and banana bread are my go-to recipes. I run to stay fit (however, I will not list that activity with the words “I love” in front of it.) I enjoy reading. I find true joy in watching my daughter compete in swim and marching band and my son raise lambs in 4-H. Family means everything to me.
Where was the best place you’ve traveled to?
This past spring (2018) my husband and I traveled to Ireland, Croatia and throughout Italy. I still look through my pictures and can’t believe the beautiful places we had the honor of seeing with our own eyes!
What would be your “theme song?”
“Dirt” by Florida Georgia Line. It describes my childhood perfectly. I grew up on a farm and am grateful for the work ethic it instilled in me.
What was your favorite class in school?
My favorite course was menu planning in college. I love the creativity that goes into developing something that is the window of a restaurant. A good menu touches all your senses and should get the guest excited about what is to come. It’s an important marketing tool and can make or break a business. (Editor’s note: Have you seen the latest Spartan Terrace menu? It’s delightful and we highly recommend you, the reader, check it out.)
What was your first job out of school?
My first job out of college was working as assistant director of food service at Central Michigan Community Hospital. I worked at the hospital through a contract management company that eventually promoted me and moved me from Michigan to Illinois.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
This is an easy one. My favorite quote comes from Ben Franklin. “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” THIS is the reason I teach.
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
I am part of an organization whose mission is helping people invest in themselves through education—what could be more satisfying?