- School Life
At 6:30 a.m., on an average school day, most people are rolling over to turn off their alarms, but not the Pembroke Hill food service staff. They are arriving on campus to prepare for the day’s lunch.
Joe Kilishek, Pembroke Hill food service manager, begins his day even earlier. “It’s important for me to be here when my staff gets here. I want them to know someone is on campus who cares about them, and I don’t want them waiting for the door to open.”
Soon after 6:30, the kitchens on both campuses come alive with activity. Amid a comfortable blend of collaboration and a quiet sense of purpose, lunch preparations begin. On the Ward Parkway campus, Brandan MacNaughton, chef manager, inspects the morning’s food delivering before accepting the produce. A commitment to serving only fresh foods is a hallmark of Flik Fine Dining, Pembroke Hill’s food service partner.
“Everything we serve is so fresh,” Joe explained. “We receive produce every day; bread comes three times a week, and dairy products are delivered four times each week.” He added, “There are no cans in our food storage area. If we can’t make it fresh, we don’t serve it.”
“We work up our menus ahead of time,” Joe explained, “but Brendan, Linda Elliott, Wornall campus chef, and I consult each morning and make adjustments based on our deliveries.”
Tim Goff surveys the day’s food delivery and determines the composed salads he will make. On this particular day, he has decided to offer broccoli raisin salad and firecracker pasta salad. Cedric Kizine is warming of the stoves to cook a delicious sauce to be used for the lunch meal.
Each day, the school serves over 1,200 lunches by an 18-member food service staff who work on a staggered schedule to help keep the food fresh during the entire lunch serving time. Joe explained, “It is important that the food we serve as 12:30 p.m., is as fresh as the food we serve at 11:30 a.m.” To do this, the department incorporates a technique called progressive cooking. “We initially prepare the food for the 11 to 12 p.m. slot, then we prepare the food for the 12:15 to 1:15 shift. It’s all about freshness, and that’s the way it should be.”
Joe gives much credit for the delicious offerings and efficient operation to his staff. “For the food industry, we have relatively low turnover. I think it’s because they feel part of the process, and they are part of the decision-making process. We also provide a lot of training. We believe in cross-training and giving people the opportunity to expand their roles.”
Customer service is also a priority for Joe and his staff. “It is important to develop good relationships with parents, students, teachers and administrators,” he said. “We have white boards in the dining halls were we ask for comments, and we pay attention to them. For example, the Ward Parkway students kept asking for a baked potato bar. So one day, we surprised them by changing the published menu to offer baked potatoes. They loved it, and we had a lot of fun doing it for them.”
The customer service extends to accommodating individuals with allergies. “I encourage students – especially on the Ward Parkway campus - to come in and talk with Brendan about what is being served and what alternatives are appropriate for their particular situations. We believe in educating students about foods in relation to their allergies.”
In addition to healthy, delicious food, Joe and his staff want everyone to have a pleasant and comfortable dining experience. “We are constantly looking at ways we can enhance the physical environment, whether that is improving the flow of our serving area or enhancing the presentation of our food items. It is always rewarding to see our students and faculty respond to any improvements we make,” Joe concluded.