Cafeteria workers serve school lunches to over half of all schoolchildren in the U.S. Many students get their first and second meals of the day from the school cafeteria. But what goes on behind the scenes in the preparation of these lunches?
“Well first, we look at the production sheet,” said Carrboro cafeteria worker Misty Paisant. After noting the production sheet, the actual cooking process begins.
“If there’s any vegetables, wash the vegetables; after that, cut them up; then prepare them to go into the steamer,” said Paisant.
If necessary, whatever meat or entree is going with the vegetables is prepared in the pan.
“We either cook that ahead of time or cook it later on — it all depends on what it is; fish you cook later; lasagna or spaghetti, you bake it; chicken, you cook ahead of time — by the time lunchtime comes it’s coming out the oven,” said Paisant.
This process is completed in full everyday before serving the meals to much of the student population.
Paisant’s favorite part of the lunch preparation process is the cooking.
“I just love cooking — it’s just been a passion of mine since I was like six or seven years old,” said Paisant.
When she was younger she ate school lunches as well.
“They were great. The pizzas — flat, square pizzas — those were the best lunches,” said Paisant.
“The pizza [we make] has actually gotten better — they look like Papa Johns pizzas, not just little square pizzas. So, they taste better and they look better,” said Paisant.
“My favorite lunch was the grilled cheese,” said Paisant’s cafeteria co-worker Cheryl Weaver. Now that she’s preparing them however, Weaver has a different favorite to make.
“Pizza. That’s what I do — I make pizza,” said Weaver.
Paisant’s favorite dish to prepare is Lasagna. “It’s complicated — there’s so many steps to it — but it comes out looking so pretty,” said Paisant.
These are the testimonies of just two of the many dedicated workers in CHS’ cafeteria.
Photo by Levi Hencke