St. Lawrence's Great Baker

By Victoria Bean ’14 and Meg Bernier ’07, M’09

Unwrap a freshly-baked Pub Cookie and bite into the chocolaty goodness. It’s one of thousands that have been made from scratch by Linda Dixson, better known as “Linda the Baker,” who has come to work at Dana Dining Hall by 6 a.m. five mornings a week for the last 37 years to bake up batches of these signature cookies.

The Pub Cookie came to be during the 1960s, when Dining Services was asked to make a bigger-than-normal treat for an event, recalls Bob Zimmerman, manager of Dana Dining Hall. They earned their name because they were originally sold in the Noble Center Pub, even though they were baked in Dana.  

In the years since the Pub Cookie was born, Dixson has preserved its recipe and shape. Listen to her talk about her love of baking as she scoops the cookie dough by hand, and you’ll realize the secret to the cookie’s softer center and crispier edge lies not just in the ingredients and preparation, but also in how much she cares about the work she does, even after nearly four decades of doing it. “I love what I do, even though it can be a little overwhelming sometimes,” she says.

The number of Pub Cookies on campus differs depending on the time of year. Not only are they sold almost daily in the Northstar Café, the Time-Out Café and Brewer Bookstore, but Admissions also gives them to high school students visiting campus for interviews and tours.

“In the fall, I’ve made up to 180 per day or more, but in the spring we bake fewer because people are worried about weight heading into summer,” Dixson notes. Certain events like big hockey games or Commencement require more; for the 2013 Commencement, Linda says she baked 3,000, “And we ran out!”

While the Pub Cookie might be the most famous of Dixson’s responsibilities, it’s only one of the desserts that start in her mixing bowl. Dixson and her assistant, Justin Martin, are responsible for most things that pertain to baking at St. Lawrence, including the dozens of muffins, breads and pies that students, faculty, staff and visitors snack on each day. Nearly every baked item featured in St. Lawrence’s dining facilities is made right on campus, in the unseen preparation areas of Dana Dining Hall.

After 37 years (and, based on our calculations, possibly over 500,000 cookies), “Linda the Baker” plans to retire at the end of the 2014-15 academic year. The recipe, which she smilingly refuses to reveal for this story, will stay behind, entrusted to someone else who will also put ‘the love’ into thousands more Pub Cookies for years to come, perpetuating what has become the tastiest of St. Lawrence traditions. 

 

Tori Bean first crafted this story as part of her internship in University Communications in spring 2014; St. Lawrence assistant editor Meg Bernier later expanded it.