hewittIn the latest edition of Bwog’s profiles of unsung friendly faces around campus, Bwog contributor and Chief Burger Customizer Nikhita Mahtani took a trip to Hewitt and got to know Benny, the man behind the Barnard grill.

Let’s be honest. Nobody wants to have a dining plan. But for the BC/CU students that have one and choose to go to Hewitt Dining Hall, there’s at least something to smile about: Benny, the guy behind the grill who will always greet you with a friendly face and a cheerful “Hello!”

Benny Rodriguez has been working at Barnard for 15 years, and claims that it’s the students’ energy and enthusiasm that makes his job truly enjoyable. “Everybody always makes me feel welcome and cheerful,” he says happily. He does his best to make sure that all the students feel welcome as well, by specifically creating his burgers to cater to students’ individual needs. “You know, sometimes people ask me for guacamole or salsa on a burger and we won’t have any,” he says. “But I always go back to the kitchen to try and see what I can do.”

When not making custom burgers behind his grill, Benny is at home with his wife and children. He has two daughters, 34 and 26 years old, and even two adorable grandchildren, who are 3 and 13. “I’ve been married for a very long time,” he laughs. With a February birthday, he’s a proud Aquarius, a quality that he thinks is the reason for his bubbly personality. “Aquarians are very outgoing and love being around people,” he says.

Benny’s favorite pastimes include playing paddleball (something he’s “very good at”) and dancing. He loves Latin music, especially music by Marc Anthony, and he can even salsa. This seems fitting for him, as his parents are from Puerto Rico; however, Benny was born in good ol’ New York City—Brooklyn, to be exact. He enjoys watching George Lopez, and he even admitted to us that his celebrity crush is Beyonce Knowles. “She’s beautiful,” he says.

Benny loves his students, and he has some insightful words of wisdom to offer as well. “Don’t ever give up,” he says. While he understands that college is stressful and frustrating, he thinks that Barnard and Columbia students actually have it pretty good. “Out there, that’s where the real world is,” he smiles, pointing energetically at the window. “The pressures of college are what help you grow and become a better person. And if you keep trying, you’re all going to get great jobs someday,” he says proudly.

The conversation turns much more grave and serious when he recalls the suicide of a favorite student. “What in your life could be so bad that you would want to throw yourself off a roof?” he says sadly. “She was so bright and graduated with such a good future ahead of her. Students should never give up like that.”

On that note, Benny ends his interview by saying to all students, “If there’s anything I can do to help any student out, please let me know.” Right back at you, Benny; we hope that someday we can do something to return the favor of your kindness and friendliness. Just let us know.