Life behind the lunch counter

Sarah+shows+her+love+for+comfort+food%2C+cooking+for+the+BSM+community+as+she+does+for+her+family.

Chris Bell

Sarah shows her love for comfort food, cooking for the BSM community as she does for her family.

Emma Zamec and Aidan O'Driscoll

When grabbing the entree at lunch, few students may recognize the woman behind the counter with her Alabama roots and love for meat. Filled with interesting ups and downs, Sarah’s career has been one worthy of much more recognition than she has received. Her family history, cooking accomplishments, and time at BSM have all added up to how we know her today.

Growing up cooking for a large family of 14 people gave Sarah the experience to become the cook she is today. “We were blessed as a black family to have a lot of meat…so my dad always made sure that we had that, and I was raised on a farm starting up as a little girl, so he raised all his meats and stuff, and he had a big garden,” Sarah said.

Sarah considers herself very lucky to be brought up on a farm where the owners were generous toward her family. “We were the only black family with a TV in 1950, and my dad was the only black man that had a car,” Sarah said.

Giving back and serving the greater community has always played a role in Sarah’s cooking experience along with her family roots. “We cooked for people who came in from the fields so they could have a hot meal too,” Sarah said.

She then brought her passion for cooking to Minnesota when she moved to Maple Grove with her friend in 1986. They bonded through cooking, with her friend cooking breakfast and Sarah cooking dinner––a meal that always includes meat. “When I cook anything, I have to have me a piece of fried chicken or a pork chop,” Sarah said.

When she moved here, Sarah started working for Taher at Minnetonka High School. She worked there for several years before getting a call from Taher at BSM. “He called me up and said, ‘I really need a cook at Benilde. And we need someone like you that’s friendly, who can deal with the children,’” Sarah said. Sarah was reluctant at first, but eventually he made her an offer she couldn’t refuse and she came to BSM in 2000.

When Sarah began cooking for a job, she stayed true to her “comfort food” roots, never forgetting to include meat in her meals. “When I cook, I’m cooking for my children at home…I’m more like a comfort food cook and Chef Jonathan is more of an upscale cook, but we work together really good,” Sarah said.

Then, once she got to BSM the kids were not used to the food, so they did not eat it. “The man that hired me to come here said, ‘Sarah they’re not used to the food, so you have to fix something good to show them that it’s a new cook,’” Sarah said.

In a situation of great stress, Sarah relied on her turkey dinner meal––the ultimate comfort food––and convinced the student body of the quality entrees she could provide. “Everybody bought the turkey dinner, and ever since then people have been coming to the cafeteria,” Sarah said.

Since finding her place in the cafeteria, Sarah has been able to branch out and enjoy many other aspects of the BSM community and tradition, particularly the Grand March, which she drives out to see every year. “That’s my fondest memories of the girls coming up here and watching them do Grand March,” Sarah said.

She also enjoys the closer relationship she has with the kids who get special meals. “My gluten frees and I have gotten really close cause you know, trying to fix them a meal into this, and I have really gotten to know a lot of them, you know, by going out shopping, getting stuff for gluten free, and other allergy people, so it makes you get kinda close,” Sarah said.

Hoping to retire in two years, Sarah will experience a bittersweet goodbye to her job at BSM. “I promised Ms. Cooney and Ms. Lynch that I would stay until Sammy and Jacklyn graduate, so when they graduate, then I told em’, I’m gonna graduate too,” Sarah said.