When Adnan Shinnaq married Rose, an American woman, on September 11, 1998, he had no idea what the future would hold. In fact, when terrorists attacked the United States three years later, the Jordanian native was too busy cooking an anniversary dinner to turn on the television. After his wife came home from work and switched on the news, Shinnaq was blown away by the tragedy that had transpired. Like millions of Americans, and others through-out the world, he said he couldn’t believe what had happened.
[adnan7] “I had never even heard about Osama Bin Laden until I came over here,” Shinnaq said. “Some people look at me through him, and I don’t know why. Yes, I have the same skin color and religion, but it doesn’t mean I accept what he did. These are not our ways, there is no such thing in my religion that says to kill people.”
At age 35, Shinnaq came to the United States from Jordan, a southwest Asian country located between Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Trusting the advice of his brother Qasim Alshannaq, a former MSU Lymann Briggs teaching assistant, he came to seek better opportunities. While uncertainties lingered about how he would be accepted in a new country and how he would adjust to American culture, there was one thing Shinnaq had been certain about from the beginning– his love for food.
Inspired by his mother and her Jordanian recipes, Shinnaq was motivated to develop his culinary skills by starting out as a cook at Sultan’s, a Middle Eastern restaurant in East Lansing. Next he worked at Old Country Buffet for a few years before Shinnaq felt he was ready to do more with his skills. In 2001, he moved to the Kellogg Center where he practiced food presentation. “The eye eats before the mouth,” he said. “If you don’t like it from the beginning, you won’t like it at all.”
[adnan8] Although he accepts other cultures and their cuisine, his Islamic faith influenced his work when he decided to leave the Kellogg Center to avoid cooking with alcohol. However, constantly motivated to move forward, Shinnaq continued to practice cooking and sustain his culture by bringing some of his own recipes to the tables of West Circle cafeterias.
In December of 2003, he moved to the Yakely and Landon cafeterias to head the salad area. Amidst sounds of pans clanging from the kitchen, entrees sizzling in their skillets and dirty dishes clinking their way down a subveyor, Shinnaq’s booming and melodious voice greeted students and encouraged coworkers.
“I love to serve the students,” Shinnaq said. “I serve them from my heart, from my soul. I can’t give them the world, but I can bring other world cultures to them. I feel it is my job to bring them diversity.”
West Circle food manager Jennifer Roberts said Shinnaq is so proud of his culture that he wants to educate people about it. “He’s always willing to share and teach,” she said. “He wants people to know about his country and culture. It’s more of a pride type thing. By sharing it, he can develop relationships with people outside of the workplace.”
Don Baker, a West Circle cafeteria cook and coworker of Shinnaq, said he didn’t have much experience with different cultures before Shinnaq came to work with him. Despite having difficulties understanding him and pronouncing his name, Baker said he found a friend in Shinnaq and has learned a great deal from him. “He’s very smart about a lot of different things; his culture, food, he’s very up to date on things that would blow supervisors away.”
Knocking down cultural barriers, Shinnaq attempted to use his welcoming personality and assortment of recipes as a way of teaching students. With sloppy joes, pizza and french fries filling the usual service line, hummus, maftool and a variety of homemade Jordanian salads have expanded the students’ selection of entreés.
[adnan2] Although Shinnaq said most students were willing to try what he had to offer, not everyone liked his recipes. He said some students didn’t want to take any of his food while others tried giving him orders. “When you make food for your family, they will have to eat it and not say anything,” he said. “When you make food for another culture, it’s a different experience because if they don’t like it, they will throw it in your face.”
Yakely resident Rivonne Collins said she enjoys eating at West Circle cafeterias because she enjoys seeing workers like Shinnaq when she comes to eat. “He makes the dressing for the salad, and it’s the best I’ve ever had,” the music education sophomore said. “If it’s there, I’ll eat that over anything.”
While Shinnaq succeeded in forming new friendships and gaining the respect of coworkers, he also brought a sense of pride to West Circle after his unique creation of stuffed chicken breast, vegetable medley and special bread, entirely inspired by his heritage, won the 2004 Culinary Cup. Gleaming with pride, Shinnaq lifted its glass case in the Yakely cafeteria and proudly displayed the trophy. “It was really a gift from God,” he said. “I love to feed people from my heart, so it was such a beautiful way for them to say thank you to me.”
After one culinary cup, almost two years of working at West Circle, and a countless assortment of new recipes, Shinnaq moved to Shaw Hall cafeteria last week because he “needs a change.” While the decision came as a shock to his coworkers and customers, he said it was for the best and hoped that no one would be offended.
“At first, we were happy for him, because he’s doing something new and exciting,” Roberts said. “But at the same time, we also felt a sense of loss. We spend so much time together that I guess the sense of loss comes from losing a part of our family. But he’s not going far, he’s only going to Shaw.”
Senior Nick Allen, who said Shinnaq took him under his wing and showed him the ins and outs when he started working in the cafeteria, said Shinnaq’s departure was upsetting. “At first I thought he was joking, because we’re always feeding each other small lies,” Allen said. “He’s been a staple here for me. I think if it came down to it, I would definitely come down to Shaw and see him. I don’t have a meal plan, but I would pay 6 or 7 bucks to have Adnan fix me a salad.”
Shinnaq spent his last day at West Circle working in Yakely cafeteria alongside the Culinary Cup. Despite a change in locations, Shinnaq said he looks forward to extending his culture to a new group of students and coworkers.
“I’m trained to be traveling,” he said. “God created a big world for us– that’s why we can go wherever we want. There’s no limit, just keep going.”

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