Interviewee: Mariette Bastien

Interviewer: Jeffrey Boyce

Date: June 27, 2016

Location: Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Description: Mariette Bastien is a school food service worker in the Virgin Islands.

JB: I’m Jeffrey Boyce and it is June 27, 2016. I’m here in Red Hook on the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and this morning I’m talking with Mariette Bastien. Welcome Mariette and thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

MB: Thank you.

JB: Could we begin by you telling me a little bit about yourself, where you were born and where you grew up?

MB: I was born in the island of Dominica, Commonwealth of Dominica, and I grew up in Dominica.

JB: So you went to elementary school there?

MB: Yes.

JB: Did they have child feeding programs there?

MB: At first when I was going to school they did not really have it, but they have it for a while now, but when I was younger they didn’t really have it.

JB: But they had it before you left?

MB: Yeah.

JB: Do you remember what some of your favorite menu items were?

MB: Well, you know, the [bagum] style, I don’t think it was like catered like it is right now. I think it was a regular dish.

JB: And what is it like?

MB: A regular dish is rice, ground provision, and fish, chicken, gravy, and corn and all those different vegetables.

JB: So what brought you to St. Thomas?

MB: My brother filed for me and I got my card so I came.

JB: And so how did you get involved in child nutrition?

MB: I worked with kids before and then I applied to be a food service worker, so I got the job and that’s how I’m here right now.

JB: How long have you been doing this?

MB: A year and a month.

JB: And what’s a typical day like? What time do you start?

MB: I start at six and end at two. When I come in the morning I put my bag away, I greet everybody, then I go wash my hands and dry them and put my apron on, start to prep breakfast, whatever we have to do for the day. We look at the menu. It’s on the door over there. So we do our fruits for the morning at breakfast, and then whatever we have. If it’s bread and cheese or cheese sandwiches, or if it’s Cheerios or whatever it is we get it organized and then put it in the pan and then take it out on the line to serve for breakfast.

JB: What time is breakfast?

MB: Breakfast is at 7:15.

JB: And it stops – ?

MB: It stops at 7:45.

JB: And then you start getting ready for lunch I guess?

MB: Yeah. So we come back for the pans and we wash our pans. We work as a team here, so whoever is in the kitchen washes to pan, and then we get ready for lunch. So it’s basically the same thing, open the fruit for lunch, do the vegetables, and if it’s chicken we do the chicken. We normally do it the day before, clean it up and everything like a day before, and then we put it on pans.

JB: So you prep your chicken the day before?

MB: Yes, because we have to clean it up and take off all the fat and everything.

JB: Do you get whole chickens here?

MB: Yes.

JB: What are some of the children’s favorite menu items?

MB: I would say pizza. They like pizza.

JB: As everywhere.

MB: Yeah. They like the chicken. They also have the breaded chicken too. They love that.

JB: How do you prepare the chicken here?

MB: Well, like I said, we thaw it out and then we come and take off the fatty part or whatever is on there, and then we clean it up nicely, and then rinse it and everything and put some seasoning and put it in a pan, and then we put it in the oven to bake.

JB: What’s your favorite thing to make for the kids?

MB: Well, we love to make everything for them, but it’s the thing that they enjoy the most. It’s nice to see that when we put the food out they really come back again for seconds, and they will say how they enjoy the chicken. It’s really tasty. They enjoy the pizza. Sometimes we do the salmon and what have you. A lot of them are vegetarian, but we cater to them for the vegetarian.

JB: Oh, you have a lot of vegetarians?

MB: Yeah. We have vegetarians. We cater for the vegetarians too. We have the veggie nuggets. We do the veggie burger for them. So it’s just nice to see when they really appreciate and they enjoy the meal.

JB: Are you able to serve a lot of fresh seafood, being an island like this, or is it too expensive?

MB: I don’t know. I think we just serve what’s on the menu, what we have to work with. But we do, like I say, the salmon, and we do the chicken, and whatever we have on the menu. That’s what we use.

JB: Are there any challenges to your job, anything that’s tough to get done?

MB: Not to my knowledge.

JB: OK. What would you say is your most significant contribution to feeding the kids?

MB: Well, getting here in the morning and getting things organized for the kids, and then when you go out there they come and get the meal, so I appreciate just seeing them coming to get the meal and then they’re happy about it.

JB: What advice would you give someone who was thinking about trying to get a job like yours today?

MB: For me it’s a nice place to work. I like to work with people. I like to work as a team, and if you like to work with people and work as a team, and be around people, because there are a lot of students and you’re always around them, and they will come and ask you for something. They will say they’re hungry. So you just have to like being around people, being around the students, and I guess have patience to do this kind of work.

JB: Anything else you’d like to add?

MB: Well I just want to thank God and thank the educational department for finding a job. Thank you.

JB: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

MB: You’re welcome.