Working at Milton Hershey School is a “Badge of Honor”
By Chad Patterson, MHS Cook
I worked in the restaurant industry for 13 years and decided to go to culinary school because I’d been cooking for well over 20 years. I went to Harrisburg Area Community College and shortly after graduating got a job as a cook at Milton Hershey School.
My job here is very rewarding. I get to make an impact on these students’ lives. Not only do we feed the students, but we also feed MHS staff. We are truly life-sustaining in that regard. It’s part of the whole child approach our founders put in place.
Behind the scenes, there’s a lot of hard work that goes on to prepare the food across campus. The students and staff enjoying the food don’t always see what goes into preparing it. All they know is their food shows up on time and it’s delicious. That’s our goal. It’s always good to know that your work is being recognized even though people may not see the ingredients that go into the work. We get emails from student homes recognizing the meals we prepare. That’s always a good feeling, but we don’t need the recognition to know that we’re being recognized.
At the end of the day, you get a little tired, but it’s a rewarding tiredness like, “I couldn’t believe I got that much done in that amount of time.”
We prepare food in larger than normal quantities. For example, last week we had sloppy joes. We had 1,500 pounds of ground beef that came in five-pound packs, so you can do the math as to how many packs of ground beef that is. Today, we started making hoagies for tomorrow’s lunch at 6:30 a.m. We’re making half, and that’s 500. Coming from the restaurant industry, these kinds of numbers blew me away at first. Now I see that as a daily normal because of the number of students and staff we serve year-round.
In the Food Service department, we are like a close-knit family. We know each other and each other’s work styles so we work well together. It’s comforting to know that you’re working with people that know you and you can trust.
We also feel united with the rest of the MHS staff. Everyone’s here to help our students. Sometimes based on where we work, we get to interact more with the students. For example, in the dining rooms, we get to see the students. That engagement is good for strengthening the mission of the school.
I feel good about being part of MHS. It’s like a badge of honor. When you go places, people recognize you and they always have a story you can relate to, which makes you feel good that you are part of the daily operations of such a great place with such an impactful mission.
I think Milton Hershey would be pleased to know that his vision is being seen through. In Food Service, a lot of the staples that were here from his time are still being made, like sheppards pie (the original spelling of the MHS recipe) and milk pie. Those were some of his favorite recipes so I think he would be happy to know that the things he instilled are still being done today.