Week One, Done

By Brittney Benjamin and Ellis Renwick-Archibold

“So what were you expecting when you first stepped in the kitchen, to learn how to chop veggies or to learn how to speak Spanish?”

Eduardo, one of our kitchen coworkers, posed this question last week with a laugh.

Brittney, who will be a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, is learning what it takes to be a chef this summer. Photograph by Ellis Renwick-Archibold

Truthfully, we were expecting our lessons from this internship to be mostly culinary-based, so we were surprised to receive so many life lessons in our first week, especially the Spanish lessons.

A typical workday in the kitchen starts with changing into uniform: a chef’s coat, pants, an apron, all completed with a hat. We greet everyone with “good morning” and “buenos dias” and get ready for our first assignment.

By 10:30 am, we start preparing the “family meal,” which is lunch for the kitchen crew and waiters. The name fits because the crew is like one big family. They spend long hours together each day, eat lunch together, and treat each other like brothers and sisters, which makes the atmosphere warm and light.

A typical “family meal” for the staff. Photograph by Brittney Benjamin

At lunch, we hear discussions about favorite musicians and TV shows and stories about hometowns and growing up in places around the world like Jamaica, Brazil, France, and Mexico. After lunch, we get back to work, either preparing lunch or dinner for the members or for one of the many special events hosted at the club.

But each day is different. Some days are light while others are a little more hectic because a lot has to get done. Even as the head of the kitchen, Chef Joseph Day is always keeping things lively and laughing with us. One thing you can learn from him is the importance of patience. As hard as everyone works to keep the kitchen running smoothly, things inevitably go wrong, like a delayed delivery or a thunderstorm threatening the Fourth of July barbecue we had been preparing for days, both of which happened during our first week. But Chef Joe handled all of it with a smile.

The biggest surprise of the week came when Chef Joe called us out of the kitchen and over to the dining tent. We followed him ready for the next assignment and were surprised when he told us that he wanted us to try something. The next thing we knew, we were getting thrown off a mechanical bull, part of the decorations for a rodeo-themed event on Thursday. The whole kitchen crew tried their luck with the bull, which went better for some people than others.

Week one certainly exceeded expectations. We are looking forward to seeing what the next few weeks have to offer.