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Behind the scenes of Stewart Hall

A peek into the workings of the cafeteria, and some insight from the people who make it work.

Every day, and for every occasion, there is food in the cafeteria at Malvern. But feeding an army of young, hungry boys and a legion of faculty members requires careful preparation.

Mr. Tom Gray, Director of Dining Services, is the leader of the whole operation. Gray, a Malvern veteran, oversees the large scale workings of the cafeteria staff.

“Each member of the staff has a specialized area,” Gray said. “It helps the whole thing run much smoother.”

The process of creating the menus, for example, is a carefully planned series of events, supervised by Executive Chef Mr. Rick Conley and Mr. Gray.

“We try to make sure that we space out certain dishes so that we can serve a variety of items to the students.” Gray said.

The lunch staff works diligently to stock the cafeteria with items for lunch, but they are also in charge of catering the many other events held at Malvern.

“Besides the lunches, we also provide food for many additional events,” Gray said. “Things like Morning at Malvern, special events, we do all of those.”

The switch from the old schedule to block scheduling has had both positive and negative impacts on the dining staff’s regular business.

“To be honest, each schedule had its pros and cons,” Gray said. “With the old schedule, there was no break during D and C schedules. Now, with community time, there’s a break every day, so it’s a little easier to manage.”

There is also the new system of the ‘sliding’ lunch, which has presented its own challenges to the lunch staff.

“With the sliding lunch, you have to be able to prepare, serve, re-prepare, restock, re-serve; it’s a constant process all day long,” Conley said.

Mrs. Diane Kime, Assistant to the Food Service Director, also faces some challenges with the schedule. Kime said that the students sometimes act too rowdy during their lunch periods.

“I wish that the boys would be more controlled when it comes to lining up,” Kime said. “You have breakfast, you have break, and then you have lunch. I wish they would just take a deep breath, and slow down. I’ve already gotten run over a couple times this year.”

While the dining services staff has encountered numerous challenges in these past few years, they continue to strive for improvement.

“My goal since I came on was to change our purchase percentage of what we prepare here as compared to what we purchase,” Conley said. “Everything is homemade. The soups, the sauces, everything is homemade. So when [the students] come in, it’s like eating at a restaurant.”

Conley is no stranger to working in restaurants. Before deciding to work at Malvern, Conley owned two critically acclaimed five-star restaurants in Cape May County, New Jersey that operated on a year-round schedule.

“I won a lot of awards, but it was a lot of work,” Conley said. “Having time off in the summer to spend with my family was an important factor in my decision to come to Malvern.”

In addition to internal changes, there have been some more apparent, external changes to the cafeteria. Most notable is the added red stripe above the hot bar.

“I just wanted to add some color,” Gray said. “Everything else in the caf is navy blue, and I figured you guys were tired with navy blue, and I decided to go with red.”

The dining staff faces another full year jam-packed with non-stop work, according to Gray and his team.

“Our goals for this year are just to operate smoothly, get a firmer grip on the schedule, and provide better items for the students,” Gray said.

Still, the staff remains optimistic and ready for whatever is to come in the remainder of the year.

“I think everybody’s happy here,” Diane Kime said. “I really do.”

CORRECTION: The original reporting of this story misspelled Mr Rick Conley’s name as Mr Rick Connelly.

About Joe Markferding

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