Emory Dining Staff members from Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory Law School, and Emory Medical School were invited with their families to Cox Dining Hall on November 19th to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal prepared and served by students. Inspired by his appreciation for the Dining Staff, Harry Teplow, Emory Senior studying Human Health and Nutrition Science, was the mastermind behind this seasonal soiree. Here, Harry shares more about Thankserving, from cooking to cleanup.
Tell us about how and when you thought of Thankserving.
I came up with the idea for Thankserving two years ago when I started to develop a relationship with Miss Veronica who, at the time, was working at the DUC and now works at Cox. Her contagious energy and genuine love made me want to give back to the Dining Staff community. I also wanted to encourage my peers to express more appreciation for, and foster positive relationships with, the Dining Staff. Thankserving became a reality this year, as I’ve been fueled by the feeling that this year is my last chance to capitalize on unique opportunities on campus.
What was the goal of Thankserving?
The goal of Thankserving was to reverse the roles: for students to get behind the kitchen and glove up to serve the Dining Staff. Beyond that, I wanted to fill the room with students and staff in an atmosphere that facilitated candid, casual conversations and fostered feelings of appreciation between the two parties.
What did the planning process entail?
I had a full plate of meetings, phone calls, and emails! With the help of Emory Dining and Bon Appétit staff, I planned everything from preparation to presentation. Together, we coordinated gathering donated groceries from Whole Foods via Campus Kitchens, recruited student volunteers for cooking, serving, and cleaning, ensured access to Few Demo Kitchen, Cox Kitchen, and Cox Dining Hall, and of course spread the word among Dining Staff!
Set the scene for us. How did Thankserving unfold?
Saturday was our big prep day! We picked up over 300 pounds of food waste, predominately produce that was soon to go bad (but by no means bad yet!) from Whole Foods early in the morning. Throughout the day, two-dozen students took shifts cooking in the Few Demo Kitchen. Saturday was much less overwhelming and more fun than I anticipated; we brought a big speaker to blast jams and keep up the energy. This set the tone for Thankserving, as Sunday was also fabulous! Students came early to set up the venue and stayed late to clean up. We fed and served over 100 people, played music, posed for a Polaroid photo booth, and sat with the staff and their family members. This was incredibly special; I loved seeing the staff gathered with students over good food and gratitude.
The menu was a team effort. With the food waste from Whole Foods, student volunteers made tomato, bean, spinach soup, vegetable salad, fruit salad, spiced rice, sautéed brussel sprouts, and various flatbreads. Emory Catering provided the Thanksgiving essentials: sliced turkey, string beans, mashed potatoes and stuffing. To top it all off, Whole Foods donated festive pies and cakes for dessert!
Tell me more about the team that made Thankserving possible.
Without Campus Kitchens and their willingness to help provide food for the event, Thankserving would not have happened. In particular, I have endless gratitude for Campus Kitchens President, Justin Baman. When I first approached Justin with the idea, he responded with excitement and an eagerness to help. I also thank Chad Sunstein, the Director of Emory Dining, for his continued commitment. When I approached Chad early on this semester with nothing but an idea, he assured me that “we can definitely make this happen,” and we did! Chad then connected me to Kellie Piper from Bon Appétit and the Head Chef of Emory, Michelle Reuter - the two of them could not have been sweeter or more helpful. While Thankserving was by no means convenient for any of these parties, every individual and organization I worked with embraced the opportunity to give thanks to those that serve us every day.
Have you received feedback on Thankserving since the event?
Absolutely! In addition to praise from friends and peers that helped with the event, I got positive feedback from the Dining Staff representatives with whom I worked to bring Thankserving to fruition. The best feedback came from those who were served. Several Dining Staff members teared up as they read notes of appreciation students wrote. A Chef from Rollins School of Public Health came up to me in tears, explaining how nice it was to not do the cooking for once and how much this event meant to her.