Behind Lakeside’s International Cuisine

Ashley Follenweider

Meet Noppanit, Lakeside’s International Station chef, though most know her as Mina, which translates as “March” in Thai.

Born and raised as an only child in Phuket, Thailand, Mina studied business in Bangkok, 14 hours north of her home town. Determined to make a better life for her two young children, Mina moved to North Carolina in 1997 and accepted a chef position at a Thai restaurant in Greensboro.

Meet Mina

On January 15, 1998, Mina made a decision that forever changed her life. She began working for Elon Dining. Twenty years and three homes later, Mina could not imagine working anywhere else.

As the smiling face behind many of the menus at our International Station, Mina takes pride in the fact that she brings students comfort with her cooking. She is passionate about making a difference in students’ lives by giving them genuinely good food every day that they can always depend on.

“When you cook food that people eat and they love it, you can take care of them. I love my job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Before arranging the perfect presentation of each meal, Mina tastes each dish prior to sharing it with students to ensure that they receive the best meal possible. 

Mina takes such care because she understands that students lead busy lives and need reliable, tasty food. Beyond that, she realizes that their parents often worry about them. As a parent herself, Mina takes on the role that students’ parents cannot while their children are away on Elon’s campus. She dedicates herself to making sure students have a great experience at Lakeside.

“[Life] isn’t about how much you make, but about how much you give,” she shared. Mina is determined to make others happy, and in her opinion, “good food makes you happy.”

When she’s not preparing a meal at Elon, Mina looks forward to spending time with her 17 grandchildren. “They always love when I make pork fried rice! I make enough so that they can take some home for the next day,” Mina said with a grin. Her own personal favorite dishes to prepare include lo mein, pad thai, and papaya salad – look out for all to appear at Lakeside’s Thailand station in April!

On her weekends off, Mina enjoys walking around, shopping at flea and farmer’s markets, and watching sports – especially the Yankees – with her husband of 19 years.

“He calls me Miss Elon, since I am always working!” Mina said. “But I love my job, and Elon students are all so nice.” When her international station isn’t teeming with students, Mina likes to get out from behind the counter and talk with the students to check that they enjoyed their meal.

Mina brings positivity and compassion to the Elon Dining team. Furthermore, she understands the importance of appreciating all that you have, making others happy, and living life to the fullest.

“You just have to be the best you can be,” she shared. “Just love each other, and care for each other. Life is easy if you make it easy. We live in a beautiful world.”