By: Wynn McDonald
Bellarmine University’s newest executive is sitting at his desk, in a small room tucked away in the Frazier Hall catering office. It’s a tight space, but just big enough for the personality it houses.
This is like any other day for Louis Gornick, who was hired as BU’s general manager and food services director in May. It’s been a day of constant meetings and various responsibilities.
Gornick and his staff are charged with running all operations involving University Dining Hall, the Palio, Café Ogle, Catie’s Café, and the to-go carts in Allen and Pasteur halls, as well as event concessions and catering across campus. He also has the unique task of navigating separate duties to both the university and Sodexo, Bellarmine’s longtime food facilities partner and his employer since 2011.
For Gornick, this means arriving at 5:30 a.m. every day and not leaving until after the sun has set.
However, a busy schedule is nothing new for the culinary veteran. In the 20-plus years it took him to earn his three degrees—from the California Culinary Academy, Iowa State and Colorado State, respectively—Gornick never stopped working full time.
“One year, I think I had eight days off, the entire year, and not in a row,” he said with a chuckle. “So I’m used to working the length and the hours and all that stuff.”
This hard-working approach has served Gornick well over nearly 30 years of executive culinary experience. His diverse career has taken him across the country, from Beverly Hills to the Florida coast, and many places in between. He’s served as executive chef and manager at high-profile restaurants and clubs in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Des Moines, and he’s had the opportunity to work with reputable chefs such as Rick Bayless, Hubert Keller and Wolfgang Puck.
“It’s amazing because each place you learn something different,” Gornick said.
Before arriving in Louisville, he spent the past 15 years with the University of Illinois, the University of Nebraska, and Indiana University (the latter two with Sodexo), three Big Ten schools with an average enrollment of 37,000.
Needless to say, starting at Bellarmine has been quite an adjustment, but it is not an unwelcome one.
“It’s more personal,” Gornick said of the environment that drew him to the school. “When you’re dealing with 40,000 students compared to 3,000 students… you develop those relationships a lot more. It’s a better overall hospitality experience.”
One of those relationships is with Bellarmine Dean of Students Sean McGreevey, who took part in hiring Gornick.
“What I appreciate most about Louis is that he has experience in most aspects of the culinary business,” McGreevey said. “He has both an MBA – so he understands the business aspects – and a culinary degree – so he understands food and how to keep things exciting and fresh for our students.”
From a job perspective, the shift has been a gratifying one for Gornick. He appreciates the hierarchy at BU, noting that he’s been able to solve problems in an hour that would take months at larger schools.
The director has relished in this new freedom, and Bellarmine is already starting to see the dividends of the partnership.
“I think that he’s a breath of fresh air for us,” said Catering Director Mary Kennedy. “He comes in with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and he’s got a lot of different views on things that we do from [his] background. He brings that to what we’re doing here.”
One of Gornick’s early initiatives is the Valid Fill program, which helps with sustainability by allowing students to purchase refillable soda bottles. He’s also made efforts to improve the fresh fruit and dietary options on campus, emphasizing locally sourced produce.
“A lot of good stuff is happening,” Gornick said. “I’m a big advocate of change, not necessarily all the time, but new stuff, fresh stuff.”
In the meantime, despite his hectic schedule, he always makes time for the community he’s getting to know.
“I like to do a lot of stopping by, walking around [and] managing,” said Gornick, a life-long Jesuit. “People can approach me, ask me questions or whatever, so that’s always an important thing I think as far as my management structure goes. I like to be hands-on, visible, and be approachable.”
If students see Gornick driving around campus in his golf cart, they shouldn’t hesitate to ask for a ride. He may have places to be, but he’s in no hurry.
He’s got a good job, and this time, he plans to stick around for a while.