Makin’ Bacon: An Interview With Taylor Blackburn, Den Worker

Taylor Blackburn, a Junior at Bates, started working at The Den in January of this year. Taylor found her job through the dining services email list, picking up a Wednesday night shift. This semester, she has also added a Tuesday afternoon shift and is now working seven hours a week, as she found she enjoys her work more than she expected to.

Taylor got her job at The Den by sending in an application that put her on the dining services jobs listserv. She found an opportunity to work at The Den from there, got a shift, got briefed by Darlene, and started. “I applied for this job in particular because I’d worked in a kitchen before and found it really satisfying. I like cooking and working with a team of other people” explains Blackburn.

The Den rotates where people work on a given night, so Taylor usually bounces between working the grill, fryer, and sandwich station during one of her shifts. There’s also usually someone on register, and dishes. “I’m responsible for handling orders that come into my station and communicating with my co-workers at other stations to make sure we’re getting everything done and served up” says Taylor. She notes that, especially on busy nights, “it’s important that everyone is on the same page and working together, or it’s easy to get overwhelmed.” After closing, the workers do a big clean up of the kitchen, which can take an hour or more of scrubbing, washing, wiping and restocking. “We have to make sure everything is clean, fridges are at the right temperature, and necessities are set up for the next morning”.

When asked if there were any funny or interesting stories about things that had happened during her work hours Taylor casually remarks “nothing fit to print, really”. Despite the apparent scandalous events at the Den, Blackburn often comments on how much she appreciates the good company at her job, stating “ I really like my co-workers. Even when we’re greasy and tired at the end of the night we’re joking around and friendly. You also see a bunch of students coming through, which is fun.”

Working at The Den isn’t a mundane source of income for Taylor, it’s a position she enjoys and gets satisfaction out of. When asked if she had learned any skills from her job, Taylor replied “I think people tend to see working fast food basically as an easy, boring job for teenagers, but that’s misguided. You learn a lot about organization, teamwork, and the importance of a routine” Taylor muses. Blackburn goes on to explain that Bates Dining has dozens of employees coming in for all different shifts and jobs, and “if there weren’t an executed system for getting everything done, it would be chaos. It also teaches the importance of communication in that way.”

“I also learned how to make a mean burger. Not sure this will inform career path, but certainly can’t see it harming quality of life. In the event I spend some years as a starving artist, experience working in restaurants is not a bad thing to have. Mostly I will forever carry my ability to make awesome sandwiches and burgers.” Taylor adds.

Taylor has also learned a bit about herself during her time at The Den. “It’s weird because grilling a hundred double cheeseburgers on a hot greasy grill doesn’t sound like it’d be relaxing, but I find it to be. There’s something about having a few hours a week where all I have to focus on is helping the kitchen run smoothly and getting orders out” Taylor says, ruminating over how her job impacts her daily life. “ In college we spread ourselves super thin and always have a million things on our mind. When I’m at work, there’s no texting or email or nagging thoughts. It’s just about cooking up whatever is on the next order slip and joking around with coworkers. It’s a strange sort of zen.”

The Den is a great place to eat and hang out, but it wouldn’t be that way if not for the efforts of the quick and friendly people who work there. “When you spend five hours behind the counter, you realize how much of Bates life happens around this hub. It’s nice that we have places like that as a community.” Perhaps it’s time for you to mosey on down to The Den, eh?