Meet a Faculty Member: Marion Winik
Marion Winik, associate professor in the Klein Family School of Communications Design, normally prefers to drink a glass of wine or a martini. But lately, she’s found herself matching menu items to microbrews at Brew House No. 16, a firehouse turned gastropub in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood.
To say she’s simply a taste-tester wouldn’t be fair. She actually has an impressive title: vice president of communications and marketing.
The road to her vice presidency began in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, a small community just across the Maryland state line where Winik lived for 10 years before moving to Baltimore in 2009. Winik’s son Vince went to school and became friends with future brewmaster Ian Hummel, who also happened to be their closest neighbor.
After Hummel, now 25, became fascinated with brewing beer, his parents encouraged him to sign up for a six-month brewmaster certification program in Berlin, Germany. The idea was for him to get trained so the family could open a restaurant. Upon his return, he and his father, a retired architect, found a historic former firehouse in Baltimore that had recently been used as an office building. They decided to restore it to its former glory and open a restaurant—but there was one setback: Since they lived in Glen Rock, they needed a Baltimore resident to help them with their liquor-license application.
“I’m pretty sure they could have just had me sign the paper,” admits Winik, whose role quickly became anything but superficial. Like the Hummels did, she fell under the brewhouse’s spell. The bestselling memoirist and longtime National Public Radio commentator soon found herself jumping in to copyedit their business plan and to connect the Hummels with local writers who might review the restaurant. Before long, she’d taken on a consultant-like role.
“In a way, I represent their ideal customer,” Winik explains. Hummel, however, calls her the restaurant’s “biggest critic”—said with a smile. From Winik, he says, he can expect honest recommendations, feedback and reactions to the menu.
For example, Winik advocated for having as many meat-free options on the menu as possible, in part because her teenaged daughter is a vegetarian. She also urged the chef to stay true to the idea of “artisanal pub fare,” which she describes as a cross between savory bar snacks and German-influenced, locally sourced cuisine.
Winik, a passionate cook who frequents restaurants around Baltimore, says she wanted to be sure the restaurant offered food that customers would crave and come back for time and time again.
“My goal was for [the restaurant] to have both a physical ambience and a flavor palate that sticks in your mind,” she says.
“All the flavors on the menu orbit around the beer,” Winik explains, pointing to menu items like homemade pretzels and sausages on rolls. “Beer is the heart of the place.”