Order up! Rahdin Gets in the Zone with Ziti

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Rahdin Salehian, Features Editor

“What are you doing working here?”

On February 10, I heard this question over and over from peers, faculty, and staff as I worked with Deborah Laing, Alex Medina, Manuel Villar, Keith Jones, Jose Marin, Rigoberto Henriques, and Ric Pontes behind the counter in the Upper School (US) Servery room. My time serving lunch was the highlight of my week. Before this school year, I had spoken with the kitchen staff and written an article about all of their plans for this year’s lunch service to the student body (see “Who’s hungry? School revamps lunch plans,” Vol. 50, No. 3). Now, I wanted to see it in action.

Luckily my free block overlaps with Thursday lunch, so I was able to serve during the entirety of both lunch blocks. Immediately after my prior class had finished, I rushed into the kitchen and put on my gloves and apron. I was offered a hairnet, but in the midst of the moment, I was so thrilled to get straight to work that I had to decline.

I started this adventure with Jose at the pasta bar, serving some pasta topped with my personal preference, “Rahdin’s Favorite Buffalo Chicken Sauce,” a sauce they named after me back in the fall when I asked them about the sauce’s return for this school year. I first had this sauce freshman year, and I had missed its immaculate taste. Jose was very friendly and taught me how to scoop the pasta and sauce so I could get the perfect portion for people’s plates. The pressure that came with learning to serve the pasta at such a fast pace was a struggle at first, but with Jose’s help, I got the hang of it pretty quickly.

I was met with both friendly smiles and looks of surprise and confusion as I served people. Once the first lunch rush began to diminish, I moved my way up to the big leagues: baked ziti. Alex taught me how to cut it. He told me to cut it “like it’s lasagna,” which really resonated with me as it made my job so much easier for me to visualize.

As second lunch came around, after the kitchen staff and I felt I had had enough practice, I became the main server of the lunch line. Responsible for feeding the student body, I worked as fast as I could with the highest quality of service–two things I know I always appreciate from the kitchen staff when I am waiting in the lunch line.

Baked ziti specifically is a dish I feel has a lot of possibilities to make people happy in the way it is served. I greeted each of my peers with a smile and made sure I had already cut the baked ziti into “lasagna slices” ahead of time so I could give everyone who wanted it as much extra crust as I could. 

Specifically, I asked questions such as “How much ziti would you like?” or “Would you like broccoli with that?” at least a hundred times so that everyone would be satisfied with their portions. I remember I ended up putting anywhere from half a scoop to three scoops of the baked ziti on people’s plates. I also made it a priority to make the line move as fast as it could because I personally enjoy waiting for less time in the lunch line.

I was surprised by the amount of food the community goes through each day. We served six or seven trays just of baked ziti. And that food doesn’t account for the pasta, sandwich, and salad bars.

In periods when the servery was practically empty, I made some conversation with Alex, with whom I worked most closely as he and I alternated between serving the broccoli and baked ziti. Alex told me members of the kitchen staff come to school as early as 5 a.m. to make our lunch food. This blew me away and gave me a whole new level of respect and appreciation for their commitment to the student body. Although lunch lasts only about 20 minutes for most of us, the kitchen staff spends hours upon hours each day making our food, which is frankly unbelievable.

The Dining Services team showed me around the kitchen behind the servery, where they make the food each day. My first thought was “Wow, this is much bigger than I thought,” which is because of the many other unseen tasks that take place there, too, like washing the dishes. I made sure to thank them as I was impressed by the hard work that goes into a task that seems so simple.

Although I was nearly sweating by the end of the hour and 15 minutes, the work I did in just serving food was the bare minimum, in my opinion. Ms. Laing, Mr. Medina, Mr. Villar, Mr. Jones, Mr. Marin, Mr. Henriques, and Mr. Pontes put in so much more work than we think they do each day, and I am glad that I was able to help them out in even the smallest amount. The friendliness and commitment they bring to the student body is something I truly admire. When getting lunch, I encourage everyone to take a moment to say even just a brief “thank you” to whichever staff member is serving you because what we see in the servery is not even close to the work that goes on in the kitchen.