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The Oakmonitor

The Student News Site of Oakmont Regional High School

The Oakmonitor

A Day in the Life of Underappreciated Staff- Cafeteria

Big happy work family

On Wednesday, March 6th, I had the opportunity to spend the day with the wonderful cafeteria staff. I knew it was going to be a hard day, but I never knew how much work truly went into the food we eat every day. 

Mrs.Catarina Dodge met me at 6:30 am and that’s when my work-filled day started. By the time I arrived there, she had sandwiches cooking, some even already assembled. She was so supportive and provided me with a Chartwells shirt, apron, and hat to make me feel part of the team. 

My first task was to help wrap all the sandwiches, which would be put out at 7:00 am for the students to enjoy. The rest of the crew trickled in as it became closer to lunchtime. Mrs. Beth Hamel-Wiita is the chef in the cafe. You can identify her easily as she always has the biggest smile on her face. Mandarin Chicken with rice and green beans was the dish of the day. Hamel sauteed the green beans in sesame and soy seasoning as the chicken, the pasta, and the sauce was finishing up cooking. The smell of fresh deliciousness was rotating through the kitchen the whole day which as you can imagine made it hard to keep my stomach from rumbling. Around this time I had the tedious and long job of washing potatoes and apples. 

Once I was done with my potatoes and apples, I had the joy of accompanying Mrs. Carol Higgins next. She taught me how she takes inventory every morning, along with how to make and portion ham, turkey, tuna, and the rest of the deli items. 

Aiyana makes tuna for the Deli table

Next, I helped Pam Rogers, who works in the Grill. She does so many trips back and forth, that she achieves her step goals before first lunch! I stocked silverware, made side salads, and got everything ready for my fellow students to enjoy their delectable lunch. 

After I met the lovely Kelly Vargas, she taught me how to make fruit cups and set up all of the cold bars. I wrapped cookies with her and learned all of the tricks of the trade for her station. 

Finally, it was lunchtime! The girls put their trust in me to serve the main lunch. I felt so honored at this point in time because I saw how genuinely hard everyone worked to make this lunch, and for them to trust me enough with all of their effort-filled work was the best pat on the back that they could have given me. This was definitely my favorite part of the whole day. I legitimately had so much fun serving all the students in the school. Seeing their surprised faces on recognizing one of their own behind the line was so amusing. I feel that it really brought some attention to the fact that they don’t respect and appreciate the strong women in the kitchen enough. Surprisingly, several students didn’t even recognize me until they heard my voice because they didn’t look anyone in the eye. It was a very enlightening experience to see how all of the gears turn behind just serving one lunch, never mind both. 

First half is done!

After I served both the first lunch and second lunch, my work wasn’t done yet! Clean-up still needed to be completed, however, my day was not just filled with work. I had the best lunch ever! I had the opportunity to serve myself -so much food- and have an amazing conversation with Mrs.Dodge. She talked to me about how in previous years she paired with the Excel programs. The way her face lit up while talking about it warmed my heart. The kids in the program built so many relationships with the staff in the kitchen that some of them came back after high school to work! They load water and milk into the coolers and so much more. 

My last task was to wash tables. I learned how to make the cleaning solution and got to work. Now, don’t underestimate this job as it may seem easy. After a long day of work, cleaning the tables feels like the most long and tedious task…but I did it!

Overall, I am so grateful to have been part of this wonderful team for a day and I will never forget the conversations I had with all of the staff. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone behind the scenes in the kitchen for including me with open arms and working diligently every day to provide a delicious and nutritious meal for us! Please make sure to say a quick thank you when you receive your lunch because a little thank you goes a long way and if anyone deserves it, it’s them. 

The staff (Left to Right):

Back Row: Deana Metallic, Phil Caron, Melanie Sullivan, Kelly Vargas, Pam Rogers
Front Row: Patti Dodge, Carol Higgins, Beth Hamel-Wiita, Catarina Dodge
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About the Contributor
Aiyana Sanborn
Aiyana Sanborn, Assistant Editor-in-Chief
AssAiyana Sanborn is a part of the Oakmont Class of 2024. This is her second year being part of The Oakmonitor team. Aiyana came to Oakmont in her junior year of high school. She is excited to be writing articles and working in the studio with the AWCM team. She is a part of the Oakmont Varsity Cheerleaders and she loves to volunteer at the Middle School to help the Overlook Chargers as well. Her main hobbies consist of drawing, taking pictures, being in nature, writing, coloring, fitness, hiking, and meditation. After her senior year, Aiyana is hoping to attend Finger Lakes College in Canandaigua, NY to be a Travel Journalist. Wish her good luck!

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  • R

    Ryan RolloApr 8, 2024 at 1:39 pm

    The cafeteria staff deserve the world! Cool experiment Aiyana

    • A

      Aiyana SanbornApr 10, 2024 at 7:36 am

      Thank you!