In honor of Women’s History Month in March, we’re celebrating the women of SAGE, what they’ve already accomplished during their food service careers, and the outstanding example they set for students as they create exceptional dining experiences every day.
Since starting with SAGE in 1999, Food Service Director Hope Walker has developed strong, long-lasting relationships with the community at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Maryland. She described how the dining program has changed because of COVID-19 and how excited she is about the school’s new kitchen and dining hall.
Who is a woman you’ve looked up to and learned from?
My grandmother encouraged us to cook, and I was drawn to it. She passed on everything to me. She was an excellent cook. I found myself drawn to food service. I can’t think of anything else that I would like to do. Food service is my calling.
What’s your favorite type of cuisine?
I like to do Jamaican cooking always. In Seasonings® events over the years, I’ve introduced a little of it at Stone Ridge. I also love to do pastas and sauces.
How would you describe your relationship with the Stone Ridge community?
They support us really well. I wouldn’t want to go anyplace else. Stone Ridge is a cut above all. They are great. They love us here. One time at the mall, I saw a woman who remembered me from when she was in first grade. She’s now married with kids. When people come back for alumnae weekend or something, I see all these girls I knew from many, many years ago. I still enjoy coming to work every day. It’s a great community.
How have you encouraged students to try new foods and continued to create an exciting menu year after year?
Prior to COVID-19, twice a month, we’d give them something to taste and get their feedback. They’re very sophisticated in what they eat. We aren’t doing any of those programs now, and I miss them. We’ve sent surveys to high school students, faculty, and staff and put a suggestion box outside the dining hall for middle school students to use. Because of the pandemic, we pack and deliver 68 insulated bags every day for students, faculty, and staff. We’ve done special desserts and put stickers on the containers with smiley faces or thank you.
The Stone Ridge seniors requested a rodeo-themed barbecue. Hope created the menu and selected fun decor to make it a special event for the students!
What do you love most about working for SAGE at Stone Ridge?
One of the things that amazed me about SAGE was one of the officers stopped me at a company training event and knew me by name. That impressed me so much. At Stone Ridge over the years, I’ve had a lot of clients. It remains the same that we’re highly thought of here. This kitchen was made for the nuns when they lived on campus. This was never a commercial kitchen. Other SAGE Managers are shocked that we’re still here feeding 700 people out of this tiny little kitchen. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel because a brand-new kitchen and dining hall will open up in August. Stone Ridge involved SAGE from the get-go. Before groundbreaking, they wanted our input. That tells something. They’re not interested in looking any other place. I’ve had several District Managers, and they have always had good words. I’ve managed to have a good rapport with everybody here.