Dining Hall Worker Gains Online Following

Dining Hall Worker Gains Online Following

By Erik Kjer, News Editor Originally published in Issue 8, Volume 33 of The University Register on February 26, 2021

As almost any Morris attendee can tell you, the lunch pizza served at the dining hall has been a staple of student diet and culture for years. Most of that pizza is served by Jean Anderson, who herself has become a part of campus culture with her own fan account on Instagram. The account, @jeanjeanpizzaqueen has been able to amass over two hundred followers in less than one month of operation.

The account’s operator, who asked to be identified only as “Not Jean” wrote the University Register, “I was eating in the dining hall toward the beginning of the semester with a friend and we were talking about old vines/memes, and I joked about how there should be a Morris meme page. I actually almost made one dedicated to the U itself, but I realized how difficult it would be to create content that everyone would get. A meme about one of the upper level math courses might be hysterical, but only to the 8 people who took that class. But we were sitting across from the pizza station, and I just kind of off-handedly said ‘but everyone knows Jean Jean Pizza Queen.’ And my buddy and I looked at each other in realization, and knew.

“I thought that a few people would follow back, but it would die down pretty quickly. I was hoping to hit 100 followers after a few weeks, especially considering how small Morris is, but I thought it would putter out after that. I didn’t expect it to blow up immediately, and I definitely didn’t expect the official Morris Sodexo page and Tony Nemmers to follow it. I actually didn’t think Jean and the other staff would find out for a couple weeks at least. Instead, I was getting messages literally the next day from people who had been showing the memes to Jean, and telling me that she loved them.”

When Jean first heard about people discussing her online she felt some apprehension.

“I am not very tech savvy. In fact, I have no idea how to even access Instagram,” said Jean.

She was worried about how students would discuss her.

“One of the students came in and said did you see this, and I thought oh no this is going to be just so painful.”

These concerns disapeared once she saw some of the posts made by students.

“There’s some really cute ones,” she remarked.

Around ten people have submitted content for the account, and according to Not Jean, “I think the account has been doing so well because it’s something everyone can relate to and contribute to. Simply put: everyone loves Jean.”

That attitude appears to be reciprocated.

“I look forward to seeing students every day," Jean said. “There’s some times when I don’t see [someone] and I wonder if everything’s okay or if they decided to take a break; you just never know what’s going on but they mean a lot to me. I’m very thankful for the position that I have, [and that] I get to interact with them.” Jean says she often loses her voice by the end of the day from talking with students, and she’s sorry if she forgets people’s names or preferred orders. “I’m terrible with names so I have to apologize; I wish everyone would wear name tags so I could learn their names.”

The situation within the dining hall has also changed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Pre-COVID we would do 80 to 100 pizzas over lunch, and since COVID has struck and enrollment took a hit we’re down to probably to 30-35.”

Out of all the varieties served, macaroni pizza appears to be the most popular based on Jean’s observations; in the words of Not Jean it just “hits DIFFERENT.”

Dining hall staff is trying to stay six feet apart, but that makes it difficult to collaborate on larger projects in the kitchen. Despite the pandemic, Morris’s pizza is also starting to become healthier. Starting this year some crusts are being made with cauliflower instead of wheat to cut down on excess carbs, and flatbread pizza is typically served every Monday.

Image on top courtesy of VegNews