Series: Heroes in Aprons

Catering Manager and Kitchen Assistant Melany Ferrimy prepares yogurt for the Lower School students.
Catering Manager and Kitchen Assistant Melany Ferrimy prepares yogurt for the Lower School students.
Cole Thompson
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  • Craig Roman, Head Chef

  • Luz Restrepo, Kitchen Assistant

  • Deborah O’Malley, Kitchen Assistant

  • Joanna Mesa, Kitchen Assistant

  • Patricia Lopera, Kitchen Assistant

  • Taran Gavrin, Sous Chef

  • Melany Ferrimy, Catering Manager and Kitchen Assistant

  • Martha Arroyave, Kitchen Assistant

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Every week, this new series aims to highlight a member of the kitchen staff, showcasing their essential in nourishing the community

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Catering Manager and Kitchen Assistant Melany Ferrimy
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  • Catering Manager and Kitchen Assistant Melany Ferrimy prepares yogurt for the Lower School students.

Q1: Please describe a typical morning in the kitchen, from your arrival to the preparation and serving of lunch to students and faculty?

A:  On Tuesdays when I come in, I have to come in either at 7:00 or 7.30 a.m., because the administration has their weekly meeting, so I have to set up breakfast for them. So, when I come in the morning, I usually turn everything on, like the ovens and the warmers, and then I make them oatmeal. I make them a fruit salad.

So, I go set the room on the Upper Commons with a nice tablecloth, and I make them the oats.  I keep them warm in a warmer, and then I give them also yogurt, granola, and some other toppings for the oats.  After that, I go and I check all my emails, and I check the calendar for the upcoming events—and if I have any other events for that day, then I have to set those up.

If I have things that are going to be the next day or during the week, I need to order things that I’m going to have to do for them. Depending on how many people, I will place the order of what the event is. Sometimes it’s like desserts. And during the time that we have the soup, then I start the soup. Usually around 9:00 a.m., I start making the soup. And then, after I have the soup going, then I have to do the waters. So, I do those. Sometimes, you know, I have to figure out what kind of flavor, new flavor to introduce, and that one is a little tricky.  Because sometimes I think that people are going to like something, and then they don’t like it.

So, I keep changing. Some of them are staple now, but I like to have, like, one or two flavors that I can change on a weekly basis.

Q2:  Do you have a favorite water flavor?

A: I love pineapples, so I like the pineapple water. So, that’s one of my favorites. I know one of the ladies in the kitchen, she loves the cucumber one, the cucumber with lemon. Mmm. It’s refreshing. And then, I help out Taryn if she needs help with prepping or cooking anything. I help serve, sometimes, the Lower School lunch. And then, I do my billing between duties. Then, I help with the dishes at noon.

Then, the Middle School comes in, so I have to serve the lunch with one more person. And then, I eat my lunch before I’m supposed to serve you guys, the Upper School. And then, when lunch is over, I clean the front and help put the leftovers away—anything we’re going to use.  We put everything away. I put the water away. And everything needs to be cleaned for the next day.

Q3: What led you to doing the work that you do here? Did you have a background in working kitchens before this?

A:  No. My first degree is in business. And then, I worked for a financial company for a while. When I started having my own kids, when I had my second, I stayed home. And then, my kids are older enough to be in school, so I’m just home.  And I went to culinary school in 2008. I wanted to switch. So, I did that. And then, from that school, they used to send us the job posting. And I saw the opening here. And I almost didn’t apply, but my daughter told me, “Yeah, mommy, do it.” And here I am.

Q4: What part of your job do you do here that is most unseen, but you would like people to know about?:

A: I have no idea. What do I do?  Let’s see. The soups. A lot of people didn’t know that I make them, but that’s more known now.  And then, the waters—more people are also realizing that I make them. I do a lot of things in the kitchen that a lot of people don’t know. I do a lot of cooking with Taryn and Craig.

And when we have the big events, I do all the set up for those big events. I like working the pre-prom event. I like to see you guys all dressed up. I like setting that one up.  And I like to help with the senior dinner.  

I like to do things in a fancy way. And we have been improving.  We have been improving a lot on the set up from when I started here. Like, Chef Craig, he has like a vision on how he likes the events to look like, and we agree usually on everything. And if it’s something I don’t like, then I tell him that we’re going to do it this other way.  

Q5: How do you help prepare for the meals?

A: So Craig is the one who does all the meal planning, and he plans the menu a month ahead. Because during COVID, we had a lot of issues getting supplies, so you need to plan ahead because we’re feeding a lot of people. Then if the suppliers don’t have something, we need to make a switch.  That’s why sometimes the menu says that it won’t be one thing today, and then we have to switch it around.  

Question:  Are there any special lunches that you had planned but didn’t work out?

Answer:  Chef Craig wanted to do Dominican food, and we were trying to figure it out, but we couldn’t come up with a really good idea or something. That will be in the works maybe next year.

Kitchen Assistant Deborah O’Malley
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  • Kitchen Assistant Deborah O’Malley ensures that the walk-in fridge is stocked with all of the necessary items. .

Q1: Please describe a typical morning in the kitchen, from your arrival to the preparation and serving of lunch to students and faculty?

A: On Monday and Friday, I start at 6:30 a.m. because of the delivery. I receive the delivery, so I have to be here at 6:30 p.m. when the truck usually comes. The other days I come in at 7:00 a.m. And then I usually set up the breakfast, bring the cereal up here, set up the bagels, make sure the milk is in the fridge—little things like that. And then about 8:00 a.m., because a lot goes on, It’s always different every day.

We’re always pulling something out for the next day, or if it needs a couple of days, like on Fridays. Fridays and Monday are my busiest days.

Q2: What led you to doing the work that you do here? Did you have a background in working kitchens before this?

I worked in a restaurant before for 10 years. It was a small place, in the South End. I waited on tables. I had 11 tables, and I liked it. I learned about prep and everything, like going downstairs and helping them out with prep and everything. I kind of learned a lot.

Q3: What part of your job do you do here that is most unseen, but you would like people to know about?

A: I mean, I do a little of everything. You know what I mean? I have a good memory. I’ve been here 24 years. Wow. So it’s kind of, I do the inventory for the paper goods.

And me and Corinne work together. I give them, you know, a copy. And then we do the inventory in the freezer. And I set up like the deli, put things on the deli and in the refrigerator. Everything is timing. You know what I mean? And then the little kids, I serve them. And I know every allergy.

And I know most of the kids, what they like and what they don’t like. So, they get to trust you. So that’s the most fun. Part.

Q4: How do you help prepare for the meals?

A: Craig will make a menu and then he’ll with me and the rest of the staff. And they’ll say, “Deb, we need something in the freezer.” Friday’s is busy because Friday I have to pull things out for over the weekend—like let the chicken thaw out for two days.

You can’t just use frozen because we use a lot of fresh stuff, too. So, I look at the menu and I kind of can pinpoint what I have to do, like set up for the chips. Today I didn’t have to set up anything because it was only chicken, string beans and mashed potatoes. But I make sure the warmers are on and everything is ready, especially for the little kids. I really focus on the lower school.

Q5: Do you have a favorite lunch to cook or to eat?

A: Not really. I like a little of everything. There are so many choices. It’s a nice feeling.

Q6: Over your 24 years here, what’s your favorite memory? What has been your favorite part of the job?

A: I enjoy the children. You get to know the kids. Sometimes, I know them for 13 years. So, it’s fun. You know what I mean? Food is very important, and you get to know people through food.

It’s fun to get to know people. I especially love the little kids. They’re fun. I love them when they say, “Hi, Debbie.” You know what I mean? You get to know them and what they like and what they don’t like, like “I like it separated” and “I don’t like that.”

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  • Story posted Wednesday, March. 6. Image designed with Canva.

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QI: What is your position in the kitchen and what are you responsible for?

A: I am the sous chef here are Brimmer and my main job is preparing the main lunch options, I also do some special items like granola, and the weekly desert. I also assist Craig with menu planning and recipe development.

Q2: When do you arrive in the kitchen to start prepping?

A: I usually arrive at about 7:50 a.m., and my main focus is preparing for that day’s lunch. I have to everything cooked, and ready to be served about 15-minutes before the first wave of Lower School lunch which starts at 10:55 a.m.

Q3: What inspired you to pursue your role here? Do you have prior experience working in kitchen environments?

A: I am a culinary school graduate of Johnson & Wales. I worked in fine dinning before taking a job at the Colorado Convention Center. That was my first introduction to large format catering style cooking. I moved to Boston from Denver in 2020, during the peak of the pandemic. I had a job lined up in Boston, but was laid off because of the pandemic. I had never worked in schools before, but took a chance on new experience.

Q4: How is working here different that your previous experiences?

A: Schools present some very interesting challenges, especially a school that covers preK-12 with a large international student population. A 17-year-old exchange student will have very different tastes than a 6-year-old from Newton.

Allergies are something you have to pay extreme attention too, and also limits what ingredients we can work with. We are unable to bring into building anything containing nuts or shellfish, so that does provide some limitations.

Q4: Which aspect of your role do you wish received greater recognition or appreciation within the Brimmer community?

A; We genuinely want each student to enjoy their lunch, we put a lot of time and effort into trying to accomplish that. We never put out a lunch thinking it won’t be popular, while we know pizza and chicken fingers are popular we just can’t serve that every day for a number of reasons. We also want students to try new things and add variety throughout the week.

My hope is that I can introduce some students to some new flavors and cuisines, while also providing a nutritious meal to fuel them through the day.

Q5: How is the meal planning process conducted, and what strategies do you use to plan for specific lunches in advance?

A; Craig will start planning the menu about a month in advance. He will give me the first draft and will go over the logistics, making sure we have time prep each meal, and have the appropriate time to cook each dish. Occasionally we have to make changes after we have finalized a menu.

In a broader scope we reflect on the menus at the end of the year and evaluate what was popular and what didn’t work. In the summer we will each research some dishes that we wish to introduce so we can expand our repertoire, and variety of offerings.

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  • Story posted Wednesday, March 28. Image designed with Canvas.

In our inaugural segment, we delve into the journey and contributions of Head Chef and Food Service Director Craig Roman.

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  • Head Chef Craig Roman gets ready to serve lunch.

  • Head Chef Craig Roman’s famous matzo ball soup.

  • The kitchen’s braised pork bao buns.

  • Head Chef Craig Roman dices chives for lunch.This dominant image will change each week, as we feature different kitchen staff members.

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Q1: What is the detailed timeline and sequence of activities in the kitchen for preparing and serving lunch to students and faculty, starting from the moment the kitchen staff arrives in the morning?

A: Every day starts with Debbie; she’s the first one in around 7 a.m. She puts out breakfast and accepts orders and delivery when they arrive. Everyone else starts at 8:00 a.m.

From there, each person has their own duties and responsibilities: Martha on the salad bar, Luz on the deli bar and snacks, Joanna makes salad dressings and helps in other prep around the kitchen, Melany works on [and] she also does the soup and drink station.

Patricia is our dish porter and Chef Taran and I work together to make the main meal. For the main lunch we try and do as much preparation as possible the day before, cutting vegetables, marinating meats and making sauces. So, the day of each lunch should be as smooth as possible. We make small batches of each lunch at a time so that each lunch wave has the freshest product possible.

Q2: What inspired you to pursue your role here? Do you have prior experience working in kitchen environments?

A: First, my father is a chef and has been for 40 years. I grew up in the kitchen and around all different types of food service establishments. Most of my cooking career was spent in restaurants.

I worked everywhere from two Michelin stared restaurant in Chicago to a small mom-and-pop restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, where I went to school.

I moved to Boston in 2017 and wanted a different experience outside of restaurants. I looked online and found Brimmer was looking for a lead cook, so I applied and then the rest is history. I took over as the Food Service Director in 2020 and I’ve loved being a part of this community since the beginning of my time here.

Q3: How is working here different that your previous experiences?

Brimmer is very different in many ways. A lot of people look at Gordon Ramsey always yelling, or they see shows like The Bear and see how crazy restaurant life really is.

While some of the yelling and all of the stress is real, that is the exact opposite of what we do here at Brimmer. The one thing that does carry throughout those shows and in real life is the sense of comradery and family that is formed in the kitchen. We all work very close together and this current team has been together for four years now; we all get to know each other very well.

Things that are different too is that we aren’t serving the general public and looking for make a profit. We aren’t looking to be recognized by the James Beard Awards or Michelin Stars, so there is a lot less pressure that way. What we want to achieve each day is that each person has a delicious lunch each day and can be happy after they leave the Dining Commons.

Q4: Which aspect of your role do you wish received greater recognition or appreciation within the Brimmer community?

A: When we make some changes, like the juice machine being removed, we felt that a lot of people focused on what we took away rather than what we did to try and make that situation work for everyone.

All the decisions we make are for the betterment of the community and to improve lunch for everyone. Yes, taking away the juice machine was a big decision, but we put a lot of thought and effort into an alternative that would make everyone happy.

We also get comments a lot when people say their favorite meals are chicken tenders or some type of other frozen food. I would say that 80% of our lunches are all made from scratch, and we don’t take shortcuts. So, when someone says there favorite meal is something we open from a box and put into the oven, that can be a bit discouraging  at times.

Q5: How is the meal planning process conducted, and what strategies do you use to plan for specific lunches in advance?

A: Since I took over in the kitchen, my approach to the menu is very simple way in its construction. We start with the basics of an overall theme, ingredient, or flavor profile. Some examples are different type of pasta lunches, sandwiches, tacos, south American flavor profile, an Asian flavor profile and so on.

We always go to what we know people like, and we make sure to serve those as much as we can. I also like to introduce at least one new meal each month to test it out and see how the community reacts. One of our best successes are the Boa Buns.

We also look at the seasons and time of year to know what people are most likely going to enjoy. Not many people are going to eat a heavy beef stew in September or May, when the weather gets warmer, they want a lighter pasta dish or something that we can grill that reminds them of summer and warmer weather.

We also plan menus about two-to-three months in advance. The best part of working for Brimmer and not for a third-party company is that I have full control over the menu and can change things up from month-to-month. A lot of third-party companies have a rotating 3-4 -week menu that doesn’t really change and can get boring and repetitive. Yes, we do repeat meals. But each month is different and exciting and I am very proud that the community has accepted what we done.

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About the Contributors
Ruby Cohen-Weinberg
Ruby Cohen-Weinberg, Journalist

Ruby Cohen-Weinberg is a junior and loves singing in Greenline, participating in the musicals and her humanities classes. Outside of School, she enjoys working at a local bakery, being outside, and watching movies with her family. She recently joined The Gator and is excited to create exciting and informative content for the Brimmer community.

Cole Thompson
Cole Thompson, Multimedia Journalist
Cole has been at Brimmer since 2021 and joined The Gator this freshman year. He enjoys many sports, such as soccer and skiing. He also enjoys reading and music.
Caleb Meranus
Caleb Meranus, Journalist
Caleb is a 9th-grade student who enjoys photography, and working behind a camera. This is his first semester in the newsroom, and he has been producing multimedia content like the segment Education of our Educators, Nolan's Soup Review, and other Gator Nation News media. Caleb has also been assisting other writers by taking pictures for their articles. You can find more of Caleb's photography work on his Instagram.

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