The return of Juston Stix!

Photo: Juston Stix

Until Sunday, Nov. 25, something important had been missing from the new Gordon Dining & Event Center: A cheesy comfort food beloved by University Housing residents.

Incoming freshman living in the Southeast residence hall have been blessed with the new Gordon Dining & Event Center, a facility with 13 different food stations, including an omelet bar and coffee shop.

With flat-screen televisions, balcony seating, and fireplaces on the upper and lower levels of the building, the redesigned Gordon has almost everything a college student could need. However, until recently, it was missing something very important to some of the upperclassmen on campus.

The name may sound strange to UW outsiders and new freshman, but “Juston Stix” are a favorite pizza treat for many of the students who once lived in Witte, Sellery, Ogg, or Smith Hall.

Juston Stix had been served in the old Gordon Commons since 1997, yet they were absent from the new Gordon Avenue Marketplace’s menu for most of the fall semester. Luckily for Gordon diners, the oven-baked breadsticks were re-added to the menu on Sunday, Nov. 25.

Before this time, Juston Stix had been available for diners eating at Rheta’s and Holt Commons but residents preferring to eat at the new Gordon Dining & Event Center were missing the cheesy comfort food that was invented right in their eatery’s kitchen.

Juston Johnson, a 33-year-old Chippewa Falls native and UW-Madison alum, holds the bragging rights as inventor of the breadsticks that remain a hit on campus. Johnson, a self-proclaimed picky eater, came up with the Juston Stix recipe during his first year working as a student supervisor at the old Gordon Commons in 2007.

With an extreme dislike for tomatoes and tomato-based products, naturally pizza just didn’t do it for Johnson. He enjoyed the garlic-buttery, and cheesy taste ingredients with pizza products, but the sauce was always getting in the way. To curb his pizza cravings, Johnson would make his own cheese breadsticks during his off-time at work in the Gordon Commons kitchen.

After making a particularly large batch of his breadsticks, Johnson brought his creative comfort food to share with his coworkers at a Gordon Commons staff meeting – they loved it.

“My boss was impressed, and he said if I could draft the recipe and nutrition facts, my sticks would be added to the menu,” Johson said.

From there, Johnson spent the next several weeks crafting the recipe for his breadsticks. He tried out different combinations of shredded mozzarella and garlic butter in order to achieve the perfect bread to cheese ratio. When Johnson finally uncovered the best method for breadstick baking, he calculated the nutritional information, and was almost ready to submit his recipe for university review.

The only thing left to do was think of a name.

“My roommates and I were talking and they said I could use my name. My name is spelled differently than most ‘Justin’s,’ and Juston is a unique and different title. The ‘stix’ spelling fit too,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s Juston Stix were quickly approved by the UW food services staff, and the breadsticks became a regular part of the Gordon Commons menu in Spring 2007. Juston Stix, served with marinara sauce, nacho cheese, and garlic butter, remain a hit on the UW Campus.

“The breadsticks were popular when I was a student, and they were only served with marinara sauce – which pretty ironic considering I hate tomatoes,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who is now a field director for the Republican National Committee, says that his work at the old Gordon Commons helped him develop his leadership skills that he employs around the office today.

–Brittany Johnson