Good Companions at Henry Street Settlement
I give the seniors what they want, I treat them the way they want to
be treated… seniors have a good time here. We have monthly menu
meetings — you can give me complaints, I won’t take it to
heart.… I learn everyday. I’m still learning. I never think
that I know more than you or other people.
How did you learn to cook?
I used to cook for Project Renewal... there’s about 7 to 8 kitchens
on the Lower East Side, and I learned a lot from them. I like working
with seniors and one day, hopefully, I’ll be a senior myself.
…I was stressed out, untrained and on drugs and finally woke up
at a young age and finally realized that’s not the way to go.
I’m giving it back. [Project Renewal] had so many types of learning
classes, but cooking was my thing. Before going into there, I was making
pizzas and all that. I would like to get back to that.
Do you feel like cooking is your calling?
Yes. I wake up in the morning and if I feel good in the morning, then
that’s what I like…. I love my job. If I didn’t love
it, I wouldn’t be here… [With my kids] I cook cake, stuff
like apple pie. They love it.… I’ve gotten more responsible
now that I have kids… I have to make sure that I can support them,
that they can eat.
What kind of food do you make here?
Everything here is kosher.… No cheese, no dairy… we have
a rabbi, a mashgiach. He’s a pretty cool guy, he taught me everything
I need to know about this.… I shop one week to the next…
sometimes daily, I like it to be fresh. When I first came here I observed
for two to three months before I changed anything. You know, I got the
seniors, I make a menu plan, then I get complaints, what they want.
How you gonna help people if you don’t know what they want?…
They’re pretty slick. They come in and tell me “Oh, they
having chicken over there [another senior center], oh, you’re
having fish over here.” And that helps me out with the menu, too.
Some of the seniors are Spanish, a little Jewish, Chinese, on certain
days on the menu I do Chinese food, then Puerto Rican food one day,
Jewish food. I try to meet everybody’s needs. Sometimes I ask
for recipes, they give me recipes… I have a whole file full of
What are you favorite parts of working here?
Getting to know that people are happy. Sometimes I can sit down and
have a good conversation with them, a good one or bad one. Sometimes
I could play a game, like a domino game or something after lunch. My
favorite part now is seeing them sit down and relaxing and talking to
each other and playing games…. In about 10–15 years, maybe
I’ll own a pizza shop. I’ll probably still work here if
I own a pizza shop, if I have some people working there.
most pizza shops] there’s no types of benefits. This is a company,
full benefits. Weekends off, which I love. But now we want to give more,
so we’re gonna start opening up on Sundays.