Baking up advice

March 4, 2016

Students at WA may not know who makes the dessert that they enjoy everyday at lunch, but there is more to the people behind the counter than what meets the eye. Denise Lacombe has worked at WA for 19 years, and she knows a thing or two about running a bakery and living life.

Lacombe started as a baker at WA in 1997. Although it was not necessary for her to get a job, she decided to continue to work at WA because she enjoyed staying busy.  

“I like to be busy, I like the job. I like the kids and my coworkers and I have a good time. I get up in the morning and I am happy to come to work,” said Lacombe.

Lacombe is constantly busy, but she has realized that the day goes by quickly and she has learned to enjoy every minute working.

“I hate when the girls say ‘I wish it was Friday’, because [they’re] wishing their life away. When you’re young you can say that but when you get a little older you can’t say that because you’re wishing your life away. Before you know it, it goes so fast it’s unbelievable […] That’s why I like my job, I enjoy everyday,” said Lacombe.

She remarked that her husband wants her to retire, but she wants to keep busy.  If she were to retire, she would volunteer at the Cameron Senior Center instead of staying at home all day and reading.

“There’s only so much reading you can do. After a while if you can do a lot of reading, it’s not as important anymore,” said Lacombe.

If Lacombe were to retire, not only would WA lose her delicious treats, but she also would not have the opportunity to enjoy working and to relish the small time she has for enjoyable activities.

Cookies made by Lacombe
Cookies made by Lacombe

“When you can do something all the time or whenever you want to, it is not as enjoyable as if you take the time off to do it. Then you really look forward to it. […] You have to look forward to something and I look forward to coming to work everyday,” said Lacombe.

She appreciates everything except maybe being the go-to girl for fixing things around the kitchen.

“Everybody gives me too much work to do. Denise do this, Denise come here, fix this, fix that,” said Lacombe.

Nevertheless, she is very passionate about her job as the baker.  To the current manager Laurie Scaplen, Lacombe is irreplaceable, especially in the art of keeping the kitchen in shape.

“I call her the mean of clean,” said Scaplen.

In addition to her impeccable cleaning abilities, Lacombe’s brutal honesty and dedication may just be why the kitchen runs well and the cookies taste so good.

“That’s why I get up happy every morning, because if I have something to say, I say it right here. I don’t bring it home with me,” said Lacombe.

If there are problems in the kitchen, then she addresses them in the present situation. She does not hold a grudge or bring her angry emotions home.  Instead, she lays everything out in the open and takes her kitchen seriously.  The way she feels affects the rest of the staff. 

Lacombe stated that, “When mamma is not happy, the kitchen is not happy.”

Lacombe is dedicated to making tasty treats.  However, her dedication has held her back in the past when new regulations changed her way of cooking.

Denise placing whipped cream on the cannoli cups
Denise placing whipped cream on the cannoli cups

“I used to have a board to cut my cake, and there were nails in it, […] and it used to cut my cake so evenly.  Then it was against regulation because it was not sanitizing, but I used to sanitize it all the time, but it was not sanitary and I had to throw the board out,” said Lacombe.

She has learned to adjust.  Furthermore, Lacombe supports the idea that health issues in America have more to do with moderating types of food and less to do with changing foods.  

“I wish Michelle Obama would keep her mitts to herself and don’t get messed up in our kitchen, because right now it’s crazy. […] My desserts have changed so much because of the whole wheat, my cookies used to be so big, now they’re […] not the same,” said Lacombe.

Lacombe hopes she supports the students and provides a healthy meal as long as the students continue to have an open mind and respect the people who make meals for them everyday.

“[Teenagers today] think that we owe them something. They think that we’re here to please them. […] The kids are spoiled today. My husband says ‘We never had that when we were kids. We had one meal and that’s it’, […] we never had all those foods that you can choose from,” said Lacombe.

Lacombe additionally wants students to understand that if they are able to pay for their lunch, they should be prepared to bring money to school, because if students can take responsibility now, they will be more successful in the future.

“Get ready for the outside world, because the outside world is cruel, and you have to adjust to it. If you don’t adjust, you’re going to be in trouble. […] Whatever you do, take responsibility for it,” said Lacombe.

Click here to read about students’ opinions on their experience in the cafeteria.
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