How I Felt Working in the Kitchen for the First Time by Parul Verma

Everyone warns you about how much someone’s online world differs from their offline world but I have never heard anyone warn me against the false reality that cooking shows present. Every cooking show ever has an extremely happy host who manages to cook these amazing meals by following the recipe exactly and not having to make any adjustments and also manages to accomplish this task without trashing their entire kitchen. Now, if this is how cooking is with you, I am extremely impressed but as an amateur cook who just stepped foot into the kitchen over the summer, this idea was very misleading. 

               To begin with, my team and I prepare and cook lunches and an afternoon snack for up to 100 people on average and we start doing so, bright and early every morning. I am sure everyone can well imagine how happy we all look at 9 in the morning chopping onions. However, it may be a song on the radio or all these excited kids coming in to ask what’s for lunch and suddenly we have all found our groove and are working like a machine that is determined to make a better lunch than the day before.

                However, while working in the kitchen, we face bigger problems than everyone on our team not being a morning person. Many of the days we have had issues with food delivery where we had all these kids to feed but no food. Its almost like an episode of Masterchef where the contestants have to think of recipes on the spot with ingredients available to them in the pantry except our pantry is a No Frills grocery story which is a 10 minute walk from the camp location. It is similar to a survival instinct, an adrenaline rush, to put up one last fight because you have so many children looking up to you and expecting you to be there in the cafeteria with some magical food which tastes delicious but also gives them their daily requirement of vegetables. Don’t human beings work better under stress anyway? Do not get me wrong, you do feel helpless sometimes and catch yourself looking around for an adult to help you until you realize you are the adult and need to be strong for the rest of your team.

               I realize some people might think that I am exaggerating, maybe I am, but I have not even started talking about the recipe adjustments yet. It is hard to find recipes when you are making food for a 100 people and even if you multiply the recipe by the needed factor, I promise you it will take at least 3 taste tests by at least 4 different people and someone might still think it needs more salt. The food we serve has to be top notch so the amount of time spent perfecting the flavour, color and texture of the food is necessary. I am not sure if the children judge books by their cover but they surely judge our food based on how it looks and if it doesn’t please the eye, they may refuse to eat it. It is sad but that is the truth about the impossible beauty standards for food. Also, let’s not forget what a complete mess our kitchen becomes while we make the best lunches for these children. But hey, all jobs are hard. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to work somewhere where I can see how my hard work inspires these children to be better and make better choices. If I did not know what I was working for I would not have worked so hard for it. To see my efforts, transpire change amongst the eating habits in these kids is one of the biggest rewards summerlunch+ can give me.


Susan Wright