The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

Minneapolis


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Nicolle Thomas: Cooking up Community

Thomas+makes+homemade+pasta+at+Threshing+Table+Farm%2C+a+farm+in+Wisconsin.+She+partners+with+them+for+farm+fresh+produce+and+also+has+farm+dinners+outside.
Submitted by: Nicolle Thomas
Thomas makes homemade pasta at Threshing Table Farm, a farm in Wisconsin. She partners with them for farm fresh produce and also has farm dinners outside.

Nicolle Thomas, Blake’s Lunch Program Administrator can be in her office crunching numbers, in the food line handing out meals, or in the dishroom cleaning. Wherever you locate her, you will find her wearing a big smile and hard at work.

     Born and raised in Minnesota, Thomas began working for Taher, the company that operates the food service at Blake, right after graduating from college in Wisconsin. After having some experience in the public school system, Thomas came to work at Blake in 2006. Reflecting on her 15 years at Blake so far, Thomas mentioned, “it’s amazing to see a whole class go from pre-K to graduating.”

     After college, Thomas knew that food nutrition was a field she wanted to go into. Since she was little, she has always succeeded at cooking and it has continued to be a passion of hers. With her parents coming from big families and her grandma owning a restaurant, Thomas grew up to love working in the kitchen and food was at the center of her childhood. Thomas said, “cooking from scratch was the norm in my family.”

     Reflecting on her childhood, Thomas jokes that she often teases her mom that she was “deprived” as a child because her mom wouldn’t let her buy cookies from the grocery store. Even though she had unlimited homemade goods (cookies, pies, etc.) at home, Thomas would get her dad to go to the store instead to get the cookies.

     Even now, Thomas can still recall some of the special dishes that she made in her childhood. One of her earliest memories was making a pie crust from scratch with her grandma when she was eight years old. Thomas recalled, “I remember making the pumpkin pie filling from a pumpkin that we harvested out of our own garden.”

    Although these experiences helped her enhance her appreciation for food, Thomas really started showing an appreciation for cooking in her junior year of high school. She said, “I remember sitting down and really taking the time to read cookbooks. Not necessarily to read the recipes, but to read the methods and about the author.”

     Her first big cooking project would occur that year when she ended up making an intricate sponge-cake filled with whipped cream and decorated with cabbage leaves made out of chocolate.

     For the past 15 years, Thomas has brought this same enthusiasm for cooking to the Blake community. Thomas would describe herself as a very “hands-on manager.” On an average day, in addition to keeping the budget, handing out meals, or cleaning dishes, you can find her in the kitchen, writing menus, corresponding with parents, managing food and appliance invoices, or taking care of human resource needs. When there’s room for improvement in the food service, Thomas will be there first to get the job done.

     This year, she has worked hard to make positive changes to the food service at Blake. She had been wanting to incorporate social media into the lunch service for a while. She said, “In the past, I didn’t have a person who was savvy in [the social media] department. This year, Jessica, an established Taher employee, came to us from another school and asked about it!” Today, there is an instagram account (@cafeblakeus) where students can read the menu. Thomas stated, “The goal of this was so that students know what they want to eat right when they get to the front of the line. Also, it gets our name out there, allows us to connect with students, and lets them know that we are very approachable people!”

     This year, Thomas has also helped organize daily stretching at each campus at 9:15 in the morning where lunch staff share updates and give each other affirmations.

     One of Thomas’ favorite parts about her job is the catering opportunities that she has taken part in at Blake. Thomas said, “No two caterings look alike, so we have that uniqueness. We’ve hosted weddings at Blake where we’ve provided the food for. We’ve hosted memorial services where we’ve provided the food for. Anytime we can do something that’s unique and fun, we do it. Not only does the food taste amazing, but the spreads and meals at these events help make them even more impactful for those who attend.

     For example, when she came to Blake in 2006, they had done a chocolate fountain at graduation every year. After attending a catering conference in Las Vegas, Thomas found that liquid nitrogen ice cream was the new trend. The following year, she unveiled it at the dessert station at graduation. She said, “Since then, we’ve really tried to do something exciting and fun every year.” With COVID-19 canceling the graduation ceremony last year, Thomas recalled, “missing the commencement party this last year was a big one not only for the graduates, but it was hard on us to miss that.”

     Regardless of all the changes the food department has undergone this year, Thomas always brings the same enthusiasm to work every day, and finds joy at home through spending time with her family, doing arts and crafts, or being outside in her garden.

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About the Contributor
Jack Prince
Jack Prince, Managing Editor
Hello! My name is Jack. This is my third year of being on Spectrum staff. I have edited Student Life, Sci-Tech, Opinions, and I am the Online Editor. Outside of school, I enjoy playing tennis and spending time with friends.

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