The Pub experience

By Juan Luna (TheLorian)

As I fixed my visor, I looked out from the Pub kitchen and saw the long line of students waiting to place their orders. I knew it was going to be one of “those” days: the orders would be flowing in and I would be furiously working to fill them. It’d be nonstop.

 I miss that.  

Working as a cook in the Loras College Pub, those were the kind of days that, in a weird way, I actually liked. The orders would hustle in and I  would be  cooking up a storm. Time would fly by, the line would get long, and the next moment, when I’d stop to look up, the line would be gone. And I knew I had done my job. I met the challenge of filling all the orders and feeding a bunch of my fellow students.  It felt good.  Or, at least, it used to.

I remember my first year at Loras, which was the year I got the job. Campus Dining is the  only  place on campus where students can work during their first year. Given the choice of Einstein’s, the Café, or the Pub, I chose the Pub, even though I didn’t have cooking experience besides making myself a sandwich at home.   

What I didn’t realize when I started the job was that it’s a lot like being on one of the Loras sports teams, except we don’t really practice and every shift is game time. When things aren’t crazy we can socialize a bit. We listen to music in the kitchen – the rhythm helps to keep us moving quickly, if necessary. I’ve really expanded my music taste because of all the different kinds of music we play.  

And, like all friends, we talk. We talk about almost every topic, from classes to hobbies. As with any team, real bonds form–true friendships –because you go through battles together.   

Battles like “those” kind of nights–the one’s where the orders are flying in–during which we really have to battle like a team, with our supervisor playing the coach. But unlike football or soccer teams, when things get really crazy in the Pub, our “coaches” jump into the “game” to help us get the win.  And at those times, although we can’t really talk, we have to communicate; that is, there’s no talk of hobbies or homework, but we’re communicating every move we make. We have to avoid confusion in order to get things right.   

The orders pop up on my screen. Sometimes that screen is full and I begin to feel overwhelmed. But when things get really frantic we actually have to slow down a little. Let me explain. There’s only so much space on the grill top.  So, when there are a lot of orders to fill, the grill gets full. This means some of the other orders have to wait because we’re backed up. Try not to lose your patience if your order takes time. Trust me. We’re moving as quickly as we can.   

When the grill gets backed up we do have some other things we can do to fill other spaces, like the fryer. Pub tip – if there are a lot of people ahead of you and you’re in a hurry, order chicken tenders. They can be made when the grill top is full and they can be cooked quickly. Another pub tip: if it’s super busy, don’t order the quesadillas; they take up a ton of space on the grill. Four quesadillas fill half the grill. It’s the same with the Philly cheesesteak. Don’t get me wrong., I actually have the most fun making  those, but when there is no one in line.  

I work most Saturday nights. And a lot of events are–or were– hosted in the pub on Saturdays. We heard everything from inside the kitchen, and just wondered: “what is going on out there?” We heard the crowd of people, the ambient noise, and the fun. Late into my Saturday shifts, I get antsy looking forward to finishing and getting out of the kitchen so that I can start my own Saturday fun.   

After four long hours that seemed more like eight, I felt like I have done everything. It is now 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday. While the garage door closes behind me, I feel the release while walking away from the ACC–like a boss. It’s like completing a GTA mission. “Respect.” 

At least that’s how it used to be in the “old days” before Coronavirus. But new times require new measures, and the work experience in the Pub is just not the same. We have adapted to the new style of the Pub: there are fewer items on the menu and more responsibilities such as keeping the workplace not just clean but fully sanitized. There are fewer workers, too, and shifts that used to require four student-workers are filled with just two.   

Most of us are getting tired of these words: the new normal. But I guess that’s what this is. There’s a new normal in the kitchen of the Pub. I miss working with the full team.  I miss “those” days, the super busy ones with lots of action in the kitchen and the noise of  people in the Pub. But we’re at this college to learn. Even in our jobs and during a pandemic. Times change and we need to be ready to change with them. Things that you  might  hate,  often end up teaching you a lot. And we might end up missing them. Who knows. But I can’t see my future-self missing this pandemic.   

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