Bread And Butter: First Jobs In Food Service
Lael: Tell me what your first job beyond babysitting was.
Jen: My first job was in the food service industry. This will give you a little Utah history here and date me some, but I worked at the Word Perfect eatery. Word Perfect, of course, was a technology company started in Utah. It was at the Hard Disk Cafe.
Lael: Oh, that's amazing.
Jen: Right. I worked making sandwiches in the summer and catering their banquets other times too. But it was a good first job. How about you?
Lael: I also worked with food. When I was 16, I got a job at Provo Bakery.
Jen: Oh, okay. So that's not surprising that you also had a first job in the food service world because a lot of teenagers do. And so what kind of benefits do you feel you gained from having that be your first job?
Lael: Okay, benefits from working in the Provo Bakery. It was a charming, charming little place that was really popular back in the 90s. It was a brisk business. And they were also really well known for their bread and rolls. And they were delicious. A lot of people would order loaves and loaves of bread, but they'd order it unsliced. And it looked homemade enough that they could deliver it to neighbors, you know, say around Thanksgiving or whatever, and no one would ever know the difference.
Jen: Those are my kind of people.
Lael: So one of the benefits I received that I felt I gained in that was building a sense of cleanliness. You know, teenagers aren't known for that. But when you work in that environment, it's very important.
I remember the first day on the job, when I went into that cafe and back in that kitchen, I was tasked with taking every spice off of every shelf, all around the kitchen, everything was on the shelves, and cleaning off the shelves.
It was hours of work to clean it, sanitize it. And it was a great introduction, the first day on the job, of how important cleanliness was.
Jen: Yeah, I learned the same thing. I learned how to handle food. And I learned habits then that I still value now. Especially now when we're so aware of germs and everything. I learned about cross contamination. I learned to keep my hands off the food. I learned how dirty money can be, that you don't want to touch money and food. And just be really aware of my movements around food.
Lael: Did you feel that it was part of what woke up an interest in cooking and food for you? Or was that already present?
Jen: I think now that you say that, I think that was actually probably a factor. When you get into an industrial food setting like that, it's a little Willy Wonka-ish, isn't it? Where you're kind of seeing the guts of how things, things that end up in your hands, are actually produced.
Lael: One thing that I was surprised about was that just because food is made on premises doesn't mean it's homemade. A lot of the food back then anyway, I don't know what the situation is now, a lot of food back then, you know, the frosting came out of buckets and the sauces came out of bags.
And there's a whole middleman food industry that doesn't sell to grocery stores where you'd expect them to sell, but to restaurants and cafeterias and other places that serve us.
Jen: And is that mainly for cost efficiency?
Lael: Yeah, I don't know that it’s necessarily a bad thing because it is much more efficient to wash and chop and deliver food that's already partly prepared.
Another thing I learned at Provo Bakery was, and they were masters at this, is what delicious. looks like. When you're presenting food, there are certain things that draw people to it. You know, how you stack the bear claws, the color of the frosting on the doughnuts, how things look.
It's an art and if you can develop the presentation, I'd say that's a good 30% of making food delicious.
Jen: So along with picking up on some habits of cleanliness somewhat demystifying cooking, even giving you some insight into the art of cooking, one of the other benefits of having that job when I was that age and it was summer, was the walk in refrigerator. And the leftovers. I have to say the leftovers were always one of my favorites after a big banquet to go home with.