The ladies behind the lunch

in Features by

While we students don’t have to be on campus until 7:45, the 30 workers in the cafeteria have a much different schedule. In order to provide fresh lunch daily to students, these workers arrive on campus at 3:45 a.m. to prepare the daily lunch for students, most of whom don’t give a second thought about their lunch. There are many aspects to the cafeteria in order to keep it in order though, and this article will provide a deep dive into the many facets of the cafeteria some may tend to be unaware of. 


The cafeteria director Ms. Theresa Silvera arrives on campus at 3:45 in the morning along with three of her other cooks in order to start preparing the massive amount of food that needs to be produced to feed thousands of students daily. 

Ms. Michelle, a current chef at Heritage, is one of the workers who arrive at 3:45. “I come for my boss,” she said, “Since she asked me to be here and I love my job, I came.” Ms. Michelle spends her morning preparing food and cooking until 10 a.m., when the food is then prepped for distribution.  

Most of the other cafeteria workers arrive by 6 a.m., depending on their job and situation. For example, Ms. Irene Checa, a cashier, does not arrive at her job until 7:30 a.m. since she has younger children at home. “Our supervisors are very understanding in terms of each of our situations, and take all other factors into consideration that might affect our work,” Ms. Irene said. “This helps form a bond between the members of the team.”

Suppliers and Food Quality

According to Ms. Silvera, budgeting for the cafeteria is left entirely up to Dr. Douglas Laurie, who refrained from commenting in this article, Ms. Theresa Silvera is in charge of ordering food from suppliers. Common suppliers the school favors include Tyson and Perdue for healthy meat options. These suppliers are specifically preferred due to their lack of antibiotics in the meat, along with cage-free chickens and eggs. 

Over 95% of the food bought for Heritage cafeterias are fresh produce, and all of the food is cooked daily. No leftovers are served and are disposed of to environmentally friendly decomposing stations. In order to ensure the best quality food is being delivered to students, Ms. Silvera asks her workers, “Would you feed this to your children?” If the answer is no, the food is disposed of. 

The menu consistently serves vegan and vegetarian options in order to provide options to those who do not eat meat. Additionally, all the food in the cafeteria is free of toxins and is hand-cooked. “This is in order to provide students with healthy meal options,” Silvera said. The only deep-fried options available in the cafeteria are BBQ, including french fries and fried chicken. 

Inventory and Restock

Due to the heavy amount of fresh food being used in the cafeteria daily, there are daily restocks happening throughout the week, in addition to food being ordered daily. In order to ensure which food is in need of restock, inventory checks are conducted by the cashiers every morning. 

Ms. Irene is one of the cashiers who helps conduct inventory checks and also helps process lower school lunch orders before 10 a.m. This includes charging lower school students with their lunch bill and helping sort out the food to be delivered to lower school classrooms at 10:45 a.m.

Training and Expertise 

In order to ensure that the best quality food is being served and delivered, Ms. Silvera cross-trains her cooks so every worker is knowledgeable and aware of how to conduct every job in the cafeteria. “I have high expectations and I make sure my workers are aware of that,” Ms. Silvera said. “They know what I expect of them. These are our students. We need to treat them well.”

Language barriers have arisen in the cafeteria setting, but the crew has been able to overcome those. “I understand most Creole and some Spanish. What I don’t understand, the rest of my team helps with it,” Silvera said. “We’re like a family, we help each other learn and grow.”


During summer camp, the cafeteria still serves white-tablecloth food. This specifically includes high quality foods that are easy to transfer and provide in mass amounts. “We provide the same quality of food, just at a different capacity and budget,” Silvera said. “We adapt to what we’re given.” This includes serving a daily hot meal, along with sandwiches, pasta, salads, soft serves and subs. The menu stays the same, with options such as chicken patties, tacos and waffle fries being cycled weekly. 

Summer hours also vary for workers. Most workers arrive from six to seven in the morning, which provides a “much needed rest” from the busy school year, according to Silvera. 

Improvements and Future Projects

In the second week of May 2023, the cafeteria added a gyro station to its current line-up, which includes a pasta bar, a burrito bar and a salad bar. Originally set to open much earlier, after working through some issues, the bar was finally set to open in early May. The gyro rack shows the meat being cooked as it’s served to students, and has been a popular destination for students ever since it opened. 

However, the gyro bar will eventually serve street tacos as well. “A table of students that sit right beside my office during high school lunch were talking about how much they loved street tacos one day,” Silvera said. “They suggested that the gyro bar be converted to a street taco bar, and when I suggested the idea, my superiors agreed.” The street taco bar is set to open in late September 2023. 

Student Connection 

Ms. Silvera and other cafeteria workers, such as Ms. Cece, value the student connection they are able to maintain. “I love being able to hear feedback from students; it’s what inspired the street taco bar and acai bar,” Silvera said. “I love it when students come up to me with suggestions, and I’m always open to hearing more. Feedback is important since it’s not my food; it’s the student’s.” Ms. Celia (CeCe) Llamo runs a snack bar in the back of the 7500, which is a crowd favorite among students. “I love the kids and I love that they come to talk to me,” Llamo said. “It’s why I love my job.” 

Mirroring that statement, Ms. Irene said that the favorite part of her job is “being able to see all the smiling faces of the kids as they get to buy their lunch.” Being able to interact with students helps cafeteria workers know their hard work pays off. 

Student Perception 

Student perceptions of the cafeteria do vary, however. Sophomore Akshay Kumar said, “For the price, I feel like the cafeteria food is okay. If the prices were lowered, I would then be impressed by the taste quality of the food.” Many students mirror the sentiments of Kumar, as over half of the 33 students polled stated their main issue with the cafeteria is the pricing, not the food itself. 

Contrary to those opinions, freshman Shriya Narasimhan stated that she was impressed by the cafeteria options the school offered. “As a first-year student, I was surprised by the options and quantity of food here,” Narasimhan said. “I like having a variety of foods to choose from.” 

A Family 

Ms. Michelle has stayed here as a chef for over 14 years. Both her sons have graduated from here, but she remains a cook because she loves the people here. “You learn something new everyday in the kitchen, and you get to be around people you like,” Ms. Michelle said. “I love it here.”

Theresa Silvera has recounted that any challenges the cafeteria workers have gone through, they’ve overcome together. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the workers opened up the kitchen in order to serve grab-and-go food to students quickly and effectively. “That wasn’t really a challenge for us, since we all click so well together,” Silvera said. “Any challenges that we might have, we face together.” 

Overall, the cafeteria workers remain a united front in order to deliver lunch to thousands of students in the school. As a combined group, the workers remain a family to overcome any challenges thrown at them.

Senior Nelli Sacca, pictured right, prepares for lunch as the lunch crew works behind her to set up the menu and food stalls before the lunch hour. “I love my time with the lunch ladies before lunch, it shows me how hard they really work,” Sacca said.

As a rising senior, this is Emma’s third year in the Patriot Post and she’s excited to be the Online Editor this year. Outside of newspaper, she’s Co-President of the journalism honor society, Quill and Scroll, and also the Editor-in-Chief of the Sigma Xi Honor Society magazine. She is also involved in and has officer positions in Science Research, Sigma Xi, FBLA, Model UN, SNHS, and other clubs, including honor societies and her own nonprofit. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching dramas on Netflix, listening to Taylor Swift, and hanging out with friends and family. She’s very excited to work on the Patriot Post this year!