Former Cook at Tasty Joins HDS
Harvard students who enjoyed the good humor and delicious burgers of Charles Coney, a former Tasty employee, will now have to travel outside the Square to find him.
Yesterday, Coney worked his first day for Sebastian's a restaurant in the Harvard Medical Center operated by Harvard Dining Services (HDS).
Coney described his first day as a Harvard employee as a vast departure from his experience at the Tasty.
"[Sebastian's] is a busy place. It's nothing like the Tasty," Coney says. "This place has eight or nine cooks. It's a totally different experience."
Before becoming a Harvard employee, Coney had worked for 23 years as a cook at the Tasty, a 24-hour restaurant in Harvard Square which closed recently when its building was shut down for renovations by Cambridge Savings Bank.
At the Tasty, Coney was well known for his good-natured humor and his tendency to poke fun at customers, but he says he toned down the jokes for his new job.
"You can't be too funny your first day," Coney says. "They got to learn who I am [and learn] to accept me."
Shortly before the Tasty closed, Coney had no other job lined up and worried that he would be out of work.
"One day a lawyer came into the Tasty," Coney says. "We've been knowing each other for 20 years. He came into the Tasty a couple of days before the Tasty closed and asked me what I would be doing." Coney replied that he did not have a job.
According to Coney, the next day a lady from the Harvard Employment Office came into the Tasty and said, "Charles, you can work for us any day; you're a history of Harvard Square."
HDS director Ted A. Mayer says that HDS actively recruited Coney.
"When we knew the Tasty was closing we went over there and we urged Charles to apply," Mayer says. "We knew he had a very good reputation."
Mayer says that Coney was in no way favored in the selection process as a result of his reputation, but he is delighted that Coney decided to apply for a job with HDS.
"He'll do a great job and he'll fit right in along with all of our other wonderful...staff members," Mayer says. "I think it's nice that Harvard has the opportunity to do that for one of our community members."
Coney fondly remembers his many years at the Tasty.
"It was the greatest place in the world I ever worked. In my time, I'll never find a place like that again. I loved the Tasty so much because it wasn't even like I was working--I met so many nice people," he says.
Coney expects that the institutional nature of an HDS restaurant will force him to modify the interactive cooking style he grew to love at the Tasty.
"I enjoy talking to people," he says. "I had so much fun talking to people and I won't be able to do that like in the Tasty."
Coney often had a joking relationship with Tasty clients.
"Students [at the Tasty] come from all parts of the world. I like to kid them and they get a great laugh out of it," Coney says.
Coney, who is now 62, had worked as a cook in Harvard Square for 40 years, including his time at the Tasty.
Early in his career he worked at Toga Lounge and As You Like It. In the 1980s, he worked at Tommy's Lunch (now Tommy's New York-Style Pizza) concurrently with his job at the Tasty.
Coney says he plans to work for several more years in the food service industry.
"I hope to work as long as I can because I've worked all my life," he says.
Coney says he hopes to spend a significant portion of his remaining years as a cook flipping burgers in a restaurant or a dining hall closer to the College--a wish shared by Mayer.
"At some point we'll get him on this side of the river," Mayer says. "He is so well-known that it would be nice to take advantage of his notoriety, because a lot of people on the other side of the river [at the Medical Center] don't know the Tasty."