Letter to the Editor: Greet before you eat


Maxwell Laibson, BB&N Activism Club

Did you know that Director of Dining Services Keith Jones has won five karaoke competitions? Before asking, Activism Club certainly did not. In fact, during one of our meetings, we realized that we knew nothing about the members of our Upper School (US) Dining Services who work tirelessly making and serving food for everyone else. We interact with these community members every day and eat the delicious meals they prepare, yet few of us know their names.

Each member of Dining Services has a detailed story that can often go unnoticed. By learning their stories, the US community can grow closer and better understand how to care for all its members.

US Dining Services Production Coordinator Ricardo Pontes migrated to America from the island of Terceira, Azores, in 1968. He first worked as a commercial photographer, and then joined Dining Services eleven years ago. Mr. Pontes still loves to take photographs and posts on his Instagram.

A normal workday for Mr. Pontes starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. Mr. Pontes oversees all the daily functions of the kitchen.
He’s making sure that the food is ready on time, answering questions from the staff, helping on the food line, and delegating any additional tasks. Mr. Pontes is also responsible for receiving and storing the food supplies from trucks.

In his free time, Mr. Pontes enjoys supporting the arts by going to theaters, museums, and art shows. “Being in the culinary arts, I love trying out new restaurants,” Mr. Pontes said. He enjoys making the teriyaki salmon that is served in the cafeteria and in his own cooking tries out a variety of different Azores-inspired cuisine.

Mr. Pontes wants the student body to know that the kitchen staff work hard to make lunch delicious. They enjoy feeding the US community and would love it if more students approached them with suggestions or questions.

Mr. Jones has been part of the US community for 20 years. In the past, he ran a non-profit kitchen that fed people in Chelsea and Everett, Massachusetts. During his free time, Mr. Jones loves karaoke. As a former karaoke jumper, he traveled from city to city performing in karaoke contests.

On a regular workday, Mr. Jones comes to the US at 7 a.m. and finishes at 5 p.m.

In Mr. Jones’ free time, he loves to play card games like Forty-fives, Skippo or Aggravation, and bake for friends and family.

Mr. Jones’ love of baking was cultivated during his childhood by his aunt from Vietnam.

Together they made dim sum, soups, and spring rolls that are among his aunt’s list of favorites.

Mr. Jones wants more students to reach out by email if anyone has any comments or questions around lunch.

US Dining Services Catering Coordinator Deborah Laing has been part of the US community for 17 years. She arrives at the kitchen daily around 6 a.m. and finishes work around 2 p.m. Ms. Laing also works late nights when the school requires catering. She likes to spend her free time with family, catching up on TV shows, attending church activities, and relaxing at home. Ms. Laing tries to live a “simple life.” She experiments at home with her cooking, incorporating many recipes from her childhood in Jamaica.

Mr. Pontes’ job becomes immensely easier when we, US students, don’t leave our trash on the tables or floor. Mr. Jones’ workdays
become less stressful when students always remember to clear their table when they finish eating. Ms. Laing appreciates when students show respect around cleanliness and the spaces that we all share. The US community can also show our respect by sitting in seats and not on tables, honoring the line, and taking food only from events that are meant for us.

By keeping the cafeteria clean, we’re showing respect to the kitchen staff who work hard to feed us and keep our school beautiful. We’re allowing them to enjoy what they love instead of cleaning up after our messes. One of the most important things that we can do to keep our community strong is getting to know all its members, and Activism Club is grateful that we had a chance to do just that.