Confessions of Ginnie Dunleavy

RISD's Ginnie Dunleavy admires Hillary Clinton and would like to be a coach.
Ginne Dunleavy, director of dining at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I., wishes she could sing, hates finding a parking space and keeps some telling ingredients in her fridge.

Q. What is the best part of your job?

The incredibly creative and talented team that I get to work with. I also love being part of the higher education community. This year I was able to see Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem with my daughter. That is pretty awesome!

Q. What is the worst part of your job?

Finding a parking space. 

Q. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

The turnaround that we have had at RISD. I believed strongly in the benefits of self-operated dining programs and was recruited by RISD to help. We were able to develop a strong mission and values that have guided us to becoming an award wining, fiscally sound dining program. 

Q. What is the most unusual foodservice/catering request you have ever received?

When I first came to RISD a group of student wanted to use the freezer as a studio space to sculpt ice. 

Q. If you weren't in foodservice what would you be doing?

I could see myself being a coach. I love the community, competition and continual learning that come with being part of a team. 

Q. Which talent would you most like to have?

I really wish I could sing. When my kids were babies I would sing and they would say, “Mommy, shhhhh.”

Q. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would like to be able to speak another language or two or three. 

Q. What is your greatest fear?

Harm to my family. 

Q. Which living person do you most admire?

I think the position of Secretary of State is incredibly challenging. Madeline Albright and Condi Rice are very impressive but I really admire the way Hillary Clinton has represented the U.S. while in this role. Her speech on human rights and work for women’s equality around the world I find motivating. I admire her courage and appreciate her sense of humor.

Q. What is your favorite meal?

I am not really a one meal kind of gal. I am all about the ingredients; if something is really fresh I will usually love it. My most recent favorite meal memory was fish chowder and brown bread in a little pub in Ireland. I’m still thinking about that, it was so good! 

Q. What is your "guilty pleasure?"

I love to do jigsaw puzzles and now that they have an app for that I usually do one a day. 

Q. What will people always find in your refrigerator?

Horseradish, Wocestershire sauce and V8. Can you guess what is in my freezer?

Q. What food fad do you wish had never started?

I would say eating exotic and endangered animals in like, say, shark fin soup, I just don’t get it. 

Q. What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?

I once ate deep fried crickets as an appetizer. Turns out they’re not that appetizing after all. 

Q. What do you consider to be the most overrated foodservice trend?

The fire and ice type set up that is all about the Mongolian grill. Of course, I am not a chef, they are probably a blast to cook on but I do not like other people’s ingredients getting into my food. 

Q. Read the book or see the movie?

See a foreign film with subtitles: the best of both worlds.

Q. Are you a morning or evening person?


Q. What are your words to live by?

When I first came to RISD I would say “act happy or be happy, I don’t care which,” but in the last six years I have come to realize that the most impactful thing you can do to influence customer experience is to hire for attitude. We have a talented team who can teach our way of doing business and can refine and improve skills but if a person does not have a natural passion for making others feel taken care of we will not reach our goal of being exceptional.  

Q. Who is your favorite celebrity chef?

Cat Cora. She battles with the best of them and always finishes with a shot of ouzo!

Q. What activity is at the top of your bucket list?

I’d really love to take a significant amount of time out of my normal life to contribute to some sort of relief effort or philanthropic venture. 

Q. What is your most treasured possession?

I wear my Grandmother’s engagement ring. I love it and the memory of her giving it to me is never far.  

Q. If you could eat dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

I can see myself sitting down to dinner with a comedy icon like Gilda Radner, Carol Burnett or Tina Fey.  

Q. What would be your dream vacation?

For me, it is all about the accommodations, amenities and food and beverages. I would like to go someplace that would be featured on an exotic calendar, a villa in the Alps or a luxury hut in Fiji for example. 

Q. What do you value most in a friend?

Loyalty and unconditional acceptance.  

Q. If you had a time machine what historical event or era would you visit?

I’d love to visit the late ‘20’s early ‘30’s-at the tail end of prohibition. 

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