“I believe the first master found an elf when he cut down a tree—there was a little elf hiding there in the stump,” Quincy House Master Robert P. Kirshner ’70 says of the so-called House elves, students and recent graduates who help with open houses, teas and other events. Though most Houses hire such assistants, only Quincy has given them such a distinctive nickname. And no one knows exactly why.
“I thought maybe the word ‘elf’ was a bit undignified, but we asked them and they wanted to continue to be called elves,” Co-Master Jayne Loader says. Elves spend up to 15 hours per week assisting the masters with various activities, usually related to House life. “The most important job of a Quincy House elf is preparing for the open houses,” Loader says. Elves plan menus, shop for groceries and cook a range of confections for ravenous Quincyites. “The artichoke dip is popular and the truffle always goes,” says elf Ana-Maria Patino ’02. Staples such as brownies and chocolate chip cookies are also popular with open house attendees. In addition, the elves are responsible for advertising and serving food at the events.
In exchange for their labor, the elves receive room and board in Quincy for the school year, with the option of staying for the summer. The four elves live in a special suite on the seventh floor of New Quincy that connects to the masters’ penthouse residence via a stairwell. Other perks include free laundry and a key to the masters’ private elevator.
“I like to bake, and if I can get free room and board for doing something I like, it’s the perfect deal,” Patino says. “It’s a wonderful way to live in Cambridge for no rent,” Catarina A. Castruccio-Prince ’01 agrees. Because of the low time commitment, Quincy’s elves are free to pursue other jobs and activities. Kelly C. Seary ’01 works in research labs, while Castruccio-Prince works for the EF educational touring company. Patino is working on a Masters degree at the Graduate School of Education.
The four elves are satisfied with their unique occupation. “It’s not a lot of work,” Seary says. “We all have full time jobs and other activities. It doesn’t consume your life.” Patino adds, “We generally have a very good time in the kitchen.”
One elf, Alec B.G. Sevy ’00, gets to exercise his artistic skills in addition to his other elf duties. Sevy’s Rice Krispie Treat sculptures have become a frequent decoration at House events. Sevy has created rice and marshmallow renditions of the Sydney Opera House and the Taj Mahal, as well as a sculptural portrait of the Masters’ late bull terrier, Albert. “Think of Michaelago with marble, and then think of Alec Sevy with rice and marshmallows,” Kirshner says. One of his creations, a giant dollar bill in honor of a newly installed Larry Summers, earned a presidential seal of approval when Summers took a bite. “I just like sculpting and playing with my food,” Sevy says humbly.