Behind the counter: getting to know the kitchen staff

Kitchen+Assistant+Kelly+Sharp+is+in+charge+of+cleaning+dishes+and+preparing+pizza+for+%0Astudents.+Photo+by+Alissa+Lau.

Alissa Lau

Kitchen Assistant Kelly Sharp is in charge of cleaning dishes and preparing pizza for students. Photo by Alissa Lau.

Alissa Lau and Violet Brose

Each morning the nine kitchen staff members prepare the cafeteria to the soundtrack of 106.9, with every employee running their own part of the kitchen. The kitchen staff start early in the morning, with each position requiring a different start time for the staff members. 

“I start at 5:30 in the morning and get the kitchen opened up, and get everybody ready for service,” said Kitchen Manager Michele Bergley. “I’m responsible for all the orders, training the staff [and] making sure we’re running all our food logs.”

Each member of the kitchen staff has a station, and everyone knows their job. Some stations include salad bar, grab and go, prep and serve and grill. Although most of the work is done preparing meals, snacks are an important part of the cafeteria. 

“I come in in the morning and do the [snack] cart,” said Carla Powell, a cook assistant. “I help out and do things around the kitchen. I’ve also been the assistant manager and a manager of a kitchen. I just do whatever is needed.”

When asked about the hardest part of the job, kitchen assistant Kelly Sharp said: “Doing the milk because they’re heavy crate cartons, and I have to count and exchange [the crates] and fill them. I also get burned a lot [by appliances] which sucks.” 

During school days, the kitchen staff must work quickly to complete their jobs, which often means there isn’t much time for breaks while working, said Debbie Kem, the Kitchen Manager Assistant. 

Outside of school, the kitchen staff enjoy a range of different activities that give them time to rest and relax. Music and gardening are the most popular activities among the kitchen service team. 

“I love to sing. I used to be a singer and an entertainer in a band,” said Bergley, “I even sang in a [Nintendo] video game a long time ago: ‘WarioWare Smooth Moves’.” 

“I’m always attending to my garden,” Kem said. “I have climbing green beans, blueberries and all kinds of vegetables and flowers.”

School breaks are a big part of the appeal of school kitchen service work, allowing for time to visit family and travel. 

“I love to travel. [I lived in] Armenia and Japan; I love to go there,” said Jenai Vartan, a kitchen assistant. Relaxation is another important part of the kitchen staff’s breaks. 

“I like Hawaii and Mexico and just relaxing and not getting up early and coming to school,” said Powell, “Even though [my job is] enjoyable, it’s good to relax.”

When asked about her favorite part of the job, Bergley answered: “The people: the camaraderie with the staff, the kids and the administration. I love Inglemoor; [it] has such a neat, dynamic energy. I’ve retained my same staff, it’s just a great place to work.”