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Housing & Dining culinary interns serve up life skills

Lily Remington / Thresher

By Gale Gai     11/7/23 11:03pm

From prepping gyros at the Mezze in West Servery to making mapo-tofu at the Wok in North Servery, culinary interns at Rice help serve up some of students’ favorite meal offerings. The internship program, offered by Housing & Dining, allows undergraduate students the chance to prep and cook food across various campus serveries.

Culinary intern Thomas Pickell started cooking over the summer and said the program seemed like a perfect opportunity to make money off his newfound hobby. For Thomas Moore, another student who has participated in the program for almost a year, becoming a culinary intern was a continuation of his experience in the service industry.

 “My only work experience so far has been working at Whataburger, so I applied to see if I could get [the internship] because it is up my experience alley,” Moore, a Lovett College sophomore, said. 

After a brief training involving a tour of the Rice Holistic Garden and the basics of food handling, Pickell and Moore were able to begin working in serveries alongside H&D staff. The culinary interns are assigned to one of the five serveries on campus. Like any other member of the servery staff, the interns are responsible for preparing and serving food for hundreds of students at each meal. However, Pickell said that the culinary staff allow interns to prioritize school as needed. 

“The scheduling is very lenient at the serveries. They understand that we are students and our schedules are hectic,” Pickell said. “I like the social aspect of it a lot, and it’s nice to see people and have brief and nice interactions with them in the kitchen.”

Moore said that the culinary internship also offers a new perspective on meal preparation, especially how to make large-scale batches of food for hundreds of people.

Moore transitioned from working at Seibel Servery last semester to manning various food stations at North Servery this semester.

 “Over [at North] I am helping to prep Owl Masala, the Rincon Caliente station and the Wok, and I am getting [to cook] a lot of different regional food that I otherwise would not have experienced,” Moore said. 

Pickell, on the other hand, credits the internship program with an improvement in his knife skills. 

“One time, they had me chop brussels sprouts and carrots and kept shoving them at me like I was a conveyor belt, but my knife skills improved by 50 percent that day,” Pickell said. 

Pickell said that the experience does have its stressful moments, especially when it comes to the dinner rush. 

“The servery closes at 8 [p.m.] on Saturdays, and I remember at 7:55 [p.m.], 12 people came in and all came to the stir-fry station,” Pickell said. “I remember being really tired because I had already worked a five-hour shift, but I still had to make all these stir-fry bowls.” 

Neither Pickell nor Moore said they plan on pursuing a career related to cooking, but Pickell said he appreciates the chance to have a job not related to his major in electrical and computer engineering. 

“Something that happens at competitive places like Rice is that people don’t always see the value in experiences that aren’t directly related to their fields,” Pickell said. “I believe that there is value with any type of experience, and working at the serveries is definitely one of them.” 

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