“The heart of the kitchen”: lunch manager shares daily tasks

Chloe McAleer, Reporter

Hazy fluorescent lights illuminate the interior of Bellevue West, providing a stark contrast to the dark sky outside. Even at 6:30 a.m, Bellevue West is still buzzing with movement. In the lunchroom alone, preparation has already begun to serve both breakfast and lunch for over 600 students.

From counting cartons of milk to picking out individual pieces of lettuce, lunchroom manager Kellie Hooker-Picht said the lunch staff works tediously to prepare for service.   

“My salad bar girl, she starts prepping for that, which is really tedious, cutting everything up and making sandwiches,” Hooker-Picht said.

Time management is one of the most difficult parts of food service among keeping up with equipment and cleaning. 

“We’ve had trouble with the ovens going down, so then it’s just trying to figure out [and] finagle that in between everything,” Hooker-Picht said.

Even though lunch service is completed at a quarter to one, Hooker-Picht said that sometimes her staff stays till 2 p.m. just cleaning. 

For clean-up, Hooker-Picht said that she delegates three people to hand wash dishes, as the lunchroom doesn’t have a dishwasher. Moreover, the rest of the staff focuses on cleaning tables and the snack shop, along with filling up vending machines and prepping for the next day.

In the past year, Hooker-Picht said the lunch staff struggled with supply and demand in addition to time management.

“A lot of things we used to get, we can’t get anymore, and so they substituted and it may not be as good as the previous stuff we used to get in,” Hooker-Picht said.

Even with tedious work and a fast-paced environment, Hooker-Picht said it’s nice to give everyone a hot meal. The staff appreciates greeting students everyday and seeing their regulars.

“The heart is in the kitchen; it always has been in every home, and this is our home,” Hooker-Picht said. “These ladies are truly the heart of the school.”