A Look Inside the M-A Kitchen

1 min read

As the bell rings, students bolt from all directions to the metal railings that line the clear, polished windows along the cafeteria doors. Upon entering the maroon-red building, they are greeted by spotless metal counters.

So what does a day in the kitchen really look like? As Maria Vilchez tells us, more than anything, it’s a process of meticulous calculation, recording, and statistics.

For more than 20 years, Vilchez has worked as Sequoia Union High School District’s Food Service Lead, transferring between Carlmont, Sequoia, and now M-A. 

Her daily responsibilities as Food Service Lead involve managing the kitchen procedures, logging temperatures, and making sure breakfast, brunch, and lunch are served to students on time.

This routine is similar for the other employees working at M-A’s two kitchens: coming to school at 6:30 a.m., cutting open packages of fresh beef patties and other foods, measuring food temperatures, and making sure the pieces of equipment are functioning properly. “We have to maintain our equipment very well, so that’s why we have to log everything,” she said.

Cafeteria staff prepare steak-cut fries.

The SUHSD Food Service Department also works with TRACE (Transitional Resources for Adult Community Experiences) to offer post-secondary opportunities for cafeteria workers. The program allows young adults to gain career readiness skills and training experiences. “They go on to apply to Stanford, Costco, and other stores,” Vilchez said.

The kitchen supplies most of their food from Sysco, and sources some of their sandwiches and salads from Central Kitchen, a District food provider. When the items arrive, the first step is to check the temperature of the food. Temperatures must be at 38º or lower, but if the food does not meet the health standard threshold, it needs to be thrown away.

Vilchez's daily food temperature logs.
Cafeteria menu items for the second semester.

Every semester, the kitchen receives a new schedule and menu that they hang up along the side wall of the serving counter. For this semester, one of the popular menu items are grass-fed burgers. There are also more vegetables and fruits on the menu, with vegan and vegetarian options every day of the week, from meatless gyro wraps to basil-tomato mozzarella sandwiches.

Despite working at the District for more than two decades, working at the kitchen still requires her to learn new things every day. “When they change the menu, I always have to learn the recipes and adjustments,” Vilchez said.

However, beyond making the food and managing staff, Vilchez loves one thing the most: the students who pile to line up for her food after the sound of the bell. “I enjoy seeing all the students during breakfast and lunch,” she said.

Eileen is a junior in her second year of journalism. She enjoys covering local businesses in the community and environmental issues. In her free time, she enjoys photography and painting.

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