Diary of a Div School chef

Chopped radishes

Little more than a butler’s pantry, the kitchen off of Swift Hall's Common Room is not cut out for the Wednesday Community Luncheon's usual 100 attendees. The cooking and dishwashing area is a ship’s galley kitchen: 20 inches wide at the narrowest. Ten student cooks—each armed with a full-size commercial cookie sheet (and an opinion)—crowd in and out of the space while preparing a vegetarian meal for students, faculty, and community members.

Chef and Divinity School graduate student Rebecca Anderson, ’10, logged the goings-on in the kitchen last Wednesday, the spring quarter's first lunch (bread, salad, soup, quiche, and strudel) and annual April 1 Franz Bibfeldt lecture.

7:45 a.m.
I arrive successfully—and uncharacteristically—before the rest of the crew. I unload the groceries that spent the night refrigerated in my car thanks to the freezing temperature the night before.

8 a.m.
Our new bread baker is the first to arrive, and I point out where the tools are that she'll need.

“Where are the attachments for the standing mixer?”
"Somewhere in these three drawers? Or maybe these cupboards?”

8:05 a.m.
I leave to park my car.

8:35 a.m.
It’s street-cleaning day, which makes parking impossible. I drive home and bike back to the Div School, where I find that some of the cooks are working on the bread and studel and others are trying to boil water to make vegetable stock for the soup.

9 a.m.
I peel carrots and chop onions for the soup.

“Does anyone feel like music?”

Someone pops the Rushmore soundtrack into a portable CD player.

9:30 a.m.
While working on the quiches, one cook remarks how disgusting and eggy it all is.

“There’s salmonella all over the kitchen."
“You don’t know that for a fact.”


10:30 a.m.
There’s always a mid-morning lull, once all the chopping is done. While the bread rises, we set the tables.

“Which side does the napkin go on?”

A twosome puts the strudels together, laboriously peeling apart sheets of delicate phyllo dough. The other cooks photocopy menus for the tables, arrange flowers, and fill carafes at the Div School coffee shop.

10:45 a.m.

“What’s burning?”

Someone accidentally left something on the stove's burner. About 15 percent of the time, it is a hot mat that has caught on fire.

11:30 a.m.
Some cooks leave to attend chapel. Everyone else starts to take care of things we ought to have done already.

“Did you fill the creamers?”
“Where's the dressing?”
“What’s this goat cheese for?”
“Who is filling the water pitchers?”
“Salad! Start the salad!”

11:50 a.m.
Lunchers start to line up in the lobby. Someone remembers to prepare the yellow soapy vat for dirty silverware.

12:02 p.m.

“I’m going to open the doors.”

12:10 p.m.
As people sit down, we start to serve drinks. In the kitchen, I ladle the soup and another cook adds a parsley garnish. We take the food out.

12:35 p.m.

“Can we start?”

The strudel takes too long. We whisper in the kitchen. Five of us, using two knives, get the messy strudel off the baking sheets and onto serving plates. We serve dessert.

Chef Rebecca with pies, before and after

Eventually the crew stands in a clump by the kitchen door, seeing that the coffee and tea are passed around. I notice something's missing.

"Whoops! The creamers are still in the fridge."

We sit down to eat while the inside-joke riddled Franz Bibfeldt lecture begins. For us it’s just a break before cleaning up, but it’s also the real Wednesday lunch.

Photos by Divinity School graduate student Monika Chaudhry, ’10.



April 3, 2009