Kevin Huber is the owner and operator of four dining locations on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus – Gingers in Baker Hall and the Purnell Center, Stephanie’s in the Mellon Institute, and The Exchange in Posner Hall. With a business partner, he also operates the Red Oak Café on Forbes Avenue in Oakland. Kevin has been at the university for 12 years, and he and his staff are valued members of the CMU community and loved by students who frequent his dining locations. In fact, The Exchange is one of the most popular eateries on campus!
Kevin (right) is pictured above with Mike Clarkson, his longtime friend and staffer at The Exchange. Let’s learn more about Kevin!
Tell us about how you got started in the food industry.
I started as a dishwasher in a bowling alley restaurant. I became interested in the fast-paced action on the hot line and began to stick my nose in here and there, and one thing led to another. I went to culinary school at the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts and have been in the hospitality industry for 29 years.
What do you like most about Carnegie Mellon University?
The diversity makes Carnegie Mellon a very special campus. It’s refreshing to see Pittsburgh represented as a cutting edge city as opposed to the gritty, polluted steel town that we haven’t been for a long time. Carnegie Mellon plays a significant role in that.
How do you develop your menu?
We like to get feedback from the students and faculty we serve. We also like to offer trendy and healthy items. At the Red Oak Café, we serve OTY, a super-food smoothie made of oats, tea, and yogurt with antioxidant-ripe fruits and nutrient-rich whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Why are you passionate about food?
It all started with Sunday dinners for me. That was truly the only time that my entire family would be together in one place at one time. The great food and company was the common bond. That’s when my interest was piqued.
Personally speaking, what’s your preference – cook in or dine out?
50/50 for me. I love to try new cuisines with my wife, mostly on Friday nights. During the weekdays, we try to have dinners at home. My wife prepares most of our weekday meals; I’m usually still cooking at work.
What is your favorite meal to prepare/cook/serve?
I love making BBQ and all the fixings that go with it.
All-time favorite food or meal:
Twelve years ago at Restaurant Daniel (Boulud) in New York City, I had the opportunity to enjoy a multiple course tasting, which was – hands down – the best meal ever. I was there on business with two associates, and we left the restaurant in a giggling euphoria.
Outside of food and work, what are some of your hobbies/interests?
I love to golf, travel with the family, and play with my dogs, Lola and Willy (pictured right).
Last but not least, tell us about “The Paco.” What makes it so good and how did it get its name?
“The Paco” is a special sandwich at The Exchange with caramelized onions, Cajun turkey, spinach, Gouda cheese, and tomatoes, with a Chipotle ranch. I think the “goodness” in “The Paco” speaks for itself!
The name of the infamous sandwich started years ago when someone mistakenly called a former staffer at The Exchange “Paco,” instead of his real name, Pedro. Pretty soon, everyone was calling him Paco, people started calling me Paco, and we all called each other Paco … so the name just kind of stuck ever since!
And lucky for the Carnegie Mellon University community, “The Paco” will make it back on the menu at The Exchange for March!