Kitchen staff enjoys service

Shivangi Singh

 As she sets the gravy to reheat and prepares the tomato sauce, Manuela Prantley puts together the school lunch menu each morning, handling each item with care.  As the assistant manager and head chef of the RBHS kitchen, she fulfills similar duties for lunch time every day. In her job, each school day has started for her at 6 a.m. and endsaround 2:30 p.m.

Although the freshly prepared cinnamon rolls, cookies and coffee cakes have disappeared over the 15 years she has worked at RBHS, she said she is content with the current situation. Instead of preparing all the food from scratch, the food is now pre-made. There aren’t as many staff members anymore, not enough to handle such a responsibility of making fresh food.

“I just really l like it,” Prantley said. “I like it more [than before] actually.” Prantley enjoys the camaraderie this setup encourages. The lessened cooking style doesn’t bother her either because she believes students prefer the processed foods of the cafeteria over specially prepared foods by the staff.

“I don’t know why” they do, Prantley said. “But when we have special things, like pork rolls, they don’t seem to really want this. They just want to grab and go. That’s just how it is.”

Junior Hylee Won does not like to wait in the line for her meals at school. She said she can sacrifice the healthier options the cafeteria offers for decreased waiting time.

“Whatever is available first, that’s what I get,” Won said. “When there’s no one in line, I’ll get those [cooked foods]. But if there’s people in line, I don’t go.”

Seeing this trend in students, Brad Faith, chef, is in the RBHS kitchen now to make the servings healthier. The changes are currently slated to affect elementary schools, but change next year is likely at RBHS too.

“Most of the stuff [students eat at RBHS] is pre-processed in some form or fashion, so there’s very little scratch cooking involved with it,” Faith said. “Those things like Bosco sticks, that’s all pre-made. A lot of that stuff is preprocessed stuff, and it just gets reheated”

Unhappy about serving students such foods, he aims to move away from the company manufactured foods to healthier, unprocessed options for the student consumer.

“The more and more I can cut the processed foods out of their diet,” Faith said, “the better I will feel about it, the better nutrition services will feel about it.”

It took Kim Acton, server and chef, months to develop the same contentment Faith feels with his job right now.

In fact, the first day on the job in the cafeteria three years ago was such an overwhelming experience she didn’t want to come back to the job.

“I didn’t really like it,” Acton said, “and I was really scared and I didn’t want to come back. But I am really glad I did come back because I really like it now. I like my hours. I really like the people I work with and just knowing what I have to do every day – not really coming into any surprises.”

Like Ramilla Brown, server and coordinator of the Connecting Our Regional Economy group that RBHS caters to, Acton began to appreciate the friendliness and laid-back environment the cafeteria provided.

The day-to-day struggles — food being placed incorrectly, the sometimes nasty remarks, leftover trash and a lack of respect at times — seemed insignificant in the cafeteria’s new environment.

“All of our CPS jobs are hard, whether we are teachers or in the kitchen,” Brown said. “No matter what we do anything we do with the public schools and dealing with the kids. I think we all have a difficult job.”

By Shivangi Singh