Spotlight on Dining Hall Members

Groton students are all familiar with the sight of apron-clad dining hall staff bustling in and out of the kitchen, yet most students walk up the spiral stairs, eat, and leave without a word to these members of our community. Though it is difficult to pull time out of our hectic schedules to get to know the people behind all of our meals, each member of the dining hall staff offers an incredible story. The Circle Voice interviewed two of them for a glance into their lives.

Sous Chef Julie Larocque’s day at the Dining Hall starts at 5:15 in the morning. Though she emphasized how much she enjoys her job, the early morning breakfast trudge can be difficult, she admits. Each meal takes hours to prepare, which means that while the dining hall staff is serving one meal, they are already cooking the next. Even a simple meal like mashed potatoes requires preparation hours before it is served: Julie must dump the potatoes into a giant kettle to be steamed, then she has to mash the potatoes with a three-foot-long potato masher and crank it while adding butter. Julie likes to joke that it’s a pretty good upper body workout. Julie’s favorite part about her job is filling in the blanks on the menu for the coming week. She also loves seeing people eat what she has made. This is, in fact, one of the reasons why she came to Groton: she wanted to be able to interact with the people who were eating her food.

Elise Kimbell, another member of the dining hall staff, has worked at Groton for two years. Prior to working at Groton, she used to work an office job complete with a personal secretary and corporate jet flights for business. However, her dream has always been to “feed people good, healthy, nice food,” and as a result made the decision to quit her office job and pursue her true passion for cooking. In her specific role, pantry chef, her job is to diligently maintain the salad bar even in the busiest lunch waves. This job includes washing, cutting, and roasting all the produce options in the salad bar. Her favorite items are the salad dressings, especially the apple cider vinaigrette. “People might think of me as a lunch lady, but this truly is my dream job,” she said smiling, never taking her eyes off the milling students around the salad bar.

Though they work tirelessly, the dining hall staff manages to have fun during their long hours. According to Julie, they have all known each other for a while, and enjoy joking around while making meals. A common prank they play is putting water in the ladles that are hanging from the ceiling, so when the next person reaches up to grab one they will end up pouring water on their head.

Cooking and fun shenanigans aside, the dining hall staff is also making a serious effort to make the Dining Hall more environmentally friendly by reducing food waste. Though the staff make a concerted effort to cook exactly the right amount, they encourage the community members to take a smaller amount at a time and come back for seconds.

Taking a moment to thank and greet the dining hall staff before walking down the spiral staircase can show that we appreciate the hours of hard work that went into twenty minutes of gustatory satisfaction.