A Day in Life: Working in the Kitchens of Harvard

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“Where I worked for 15 years prior, I could pick up the phone and call the company that I needed to order something from,” said Richburg, of his previous employer. “I placed my orders at the end of the day or faxed them my order.”

For Harvard’s dining halls, though, orders have to be placed weeks in advance. While many say they found Food Pro initially challenging, the chefs interviewed for this story say they agree that the process helps by ensuring that each dining hall does not have to order food separately each day.

“It’s kind of like our Bible,” Richburg adds. “We live by it.”

For senior chefs, who oversee the staff of each dining hall, management is a time sensitive process that has to be repeated each day.

“We’re under a lot of time tables under the course of the day, making sure certain orders get ordered at certain times of the day,” said Smith. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that all of the food that is needed to serve any particular meal is available so our cooks and staff can be in place to do their jobs.”


Though each chef arrives on campus from a different background and with a unique history, senior chefs say they have come to appreciate the particular demands and community that comes with serving students.

“Coming from healthcare to here, it is a family atmosphere,” said Leonard. “Right there in the dining hall, that is where everything goes down. It’s a family-oriented place. We try to make our students and our employees feel welcome.”

Van Wien shares Leonard’s sentiments and said she feels that the chefs are able to have a close, familial type relationship with the students.

“[Students] will share their stories, not only around the food but their lives, what they’re doing,” said van Wien. “Some students are already telling us that they are missing us but they will soon come back to visit.”

Richburg recounts similar interactions with students. She recalls a time when a student broke her ankle and was having a rough time at the beginning of the semester. Because of the student’s injury, Richburg and her team decided to help out the girl whenever they could.

“One day she just came in and hugged me and started crying, telling us how glad she that we were taking such good care of her,” said Richburg. “I told her that was what we’re supposed to do for each other.”

For Smith, the possibility of such interactions is what makes him glad that his application was accepted and that he was able to join an institution he believes is truly top-tier.

“We were all handpicked to be here and it is an honor to be here,” Smith said. “What we do here is noticed by other colleges across the world, so it’s always fun for us to be always mentioned in something, somewhere.

—Staff writer Kamara A. Swaby can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SwabyK.


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