There is much to appreciate about the Poly Prep Kitchen. It offers phenomenal food that is prepped in advance and ready to be hoovered down by hungry adolescents. In fact, it is one of the most critical components of every Poly Prep student and faculty member’s day.
However, I presume most members of the community do not know how many members of the Kitchen staff there are or how many hours they spend conjuring up our delicious meals or when and how they actually decide what to cook.
I was curious as well, so I went to ask a longtime member of the Poly Prep Kitchen staff, Stanley Ward.
According to Ward, there are 13 members of the kitchen staff who take charge of Commons. Four staff members tackle the challenge of preparing the meal and shift positions regularly.
“We are always cooking, making different meals for both the tent and Commons,” said Ward. “Food is always being cooked. Everything is fresh.”
Typically, the meat is cooked on the day of the meal and the vegetables are prepared the day before in order to maximize efficiency. To make this possible, the majority of the kitchen staff comes in at around 6:30am, almost two hours before students. In total, the staff spends almost six hours each day cooking for the Poly Prep community.
“Everything is really highly organized. We have a system, a sort of game plan,” said Ward.
The school lunch policy states that students are allotted as much food as they need during the given period. This policy, while enjoyed by the students, brings up the challenge of preparing enough of each meal for each lunch group.
“The more students, the more we’re subject to running out. We always have backup. If we run out of something, we’ll use another thing. We’ll never run out,” he said.
Another part of the process is food waste. While it seems impossible to measure the eating habits of more than 500 people, Ward and his colleagues have utilized their cumulative experiences to create the perfect system for tracking food intake at Poly.
He said, “By the end of each period, we can estimate the amount of food we will need and work from that. If there is anything leftover, we find a way to process it into a whole new meal.”
In addition to serving lunch, Commons provides a variety of meals for both breakfast and after school snacking. The kitchen’s policy for food waste remains the same.
“Even when we have extra snacks, we will give it away. I’d much rather give it away than throw it away. We all hate wasting food. There are people starving and we feel as though it’s a sin,” Ward said.
Ward has been a member of the Poly Prep Kitchen staff for more than 12 years.
“I love working here. If I could go back and change it, I wouldn’t do it for the world. I genuinely like what I do and seeing you guys graduate. It’s a really magical experience.”