If you’ve ever eaten at Bon Appétit on a weekday morning or afternoon, chances are you’ve run into Rosa Kader. Known on a first name basis by many members of the Wheaton College community, Rosa never fails to greet diners with a smile on her face. Visiting with students, staff and faculty Rosa converses in both English and Spanish while also managing to swipe ID cards during breakfast and lunch rush periods. Originally from Mexico City, Rosa has been working for Wheaton’s Bon Appétit food service since 2000, helping to build community through her warm greetings, friendly personality and service with a smile.
The Wheaton Record sat down with Rosa during her lunch break to discuss different parts of her job, what she enjoys doing when she’s not on campus and some of her favorite foods.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Wheaton Record: How did you start working with Bon Appétit? Was Wheaton the first location you worked at?
Rosa Kader: No, I worked at UPS, and I worked as a lunch lady at an elementary school. I used to live in Bensenville, Ill. When I first moved to Wheaton, I thought, ‘I need to look for a job,’ so I applied over here, and I got hired. It was in 2000. I’ve been here for 14 years.
WR: When you get to work, what is the first thing that you do?
RK: Well, the first thing that I do in the morning: I have to get the garnish, the decorations. You know, the peppers and the breads, put the signs out, bring out the containers for faculty and staff. That is what I do every morning. And then, when we close after breakfast, I help to fill the plates and make sure the ice cream machine is working … I make sure the signs are up out front and get ready to open for lunch.
Some days, I start at 6 a.m. and some days I start at 6:30. I leave at 2:30 p.m.
WR: When you look back on the years you’ve worked here, what are some of your favorite parts about working here at Wheaton and with Bon Appétit?
RK: My favorite things are that I meet a lot of students and a lot of people, and then when they come back here, it’s nice to be recognized. I see the students every day, and they do have a lot of nice compliments about me, and they say, ‘Oh Rosa, you make my day.’ But when I see students in the morning, they make my day, too. I guess I like to see the students, and that’s why I still work over here (at the entrance of Anderson Commons). Some days, I can be really down, but when I’m (at Wheaton), I kind of forget all of my problems and everything, whatever it is. I’m happy to see the students, it’s nice. The students and the faculty, they’ve been very nice to me for all these years. I thank God, because I think it’s the grace that God has given to me. When I used to work in Mexico, my co-workers and everybody used to be very nice to me. So, I always think, ‘God has given me grace.’
WR: That’s one of the best parts of eating at Bon Appétit in the mornings — you’re always happy and smiling, and many people enjoy seeing you. What’s your inspiration for that?
RK: It’s one thing that I always say: Treat others the way you want to be treated. It is not only the food that we serve — it’s the service we provide to the students. It’s how we make our living, and we’ve got to give the customers the best service we can give them.
WR: Are there any parts of your job that you don’t enjoy?
RK: There are parts that I really don’t enjoy. I have to be the one to tell students ‘you’re not allowed to do this.’ I think some students have gained respect because they’ve seen both sides: I like the students and I’m nice; a lot of times if they don’t bring their ID, I say, ‘Everybody gives grace, just forget it, it’s ok.’ But, if it’s like every single day, it’s like, ‘Please, make sure you bring your ID. Even though I like you, you’re my friend, but everybody’s the same, no different.’ Everybody’s the same, and I do believe that everybody needs to follow the rules. I have to remind people, but in the end, they say ‘I’m sorry, thank you for making me realize that what I was doing was wrong.’ Even though a student might get upset with me because I tell them, ‘You’re not allowed to do this or that,’ and then we become really close, like ‘How are you doing?’ It works out.
WR: Do you have any funny stories that you can think of, throughout the time that you’ve worked here, that you look back on and laugh at now?
RK: Well, situations, you know, when students have done things … I don’t know, you know, not really funny. The one situation that was kind of ‘wow, I can’t believe that this happened over here’ was when the students started fighting, something with the swimmers, about the tiger. Things that I remember, those types of things. For the moment, I can’t remember, but there has to be a lot of different situations.
WR: When you’re not working, what are things that you enjoy doing in your free time?
RK: When I’m not working, I like to be home relaxing, watching a movie. I usually watch my granddaughter, that’s something that I really enjoy. Spending time with my family. I usually spend the time with my granddaughter on Saturdays. And Sunday with my husband, we go to the flea market or something, or just watch a movie at home.
WR: If Bon Appétit named a sandwich after you, what would you want it to consist of – what would you put on it?
RK: (Pointing to the sandwich on her plate) I think this is one of my favorites, with the foccacia bread, and the ham, turkey, cheese and lettuce. When I don’t find something that I like, I like this.
WR: What about when you’re at home, or even if you’re here at Wheaton, what are a few of your favorite meals?
RK: I love lasagna, and I love carne asada tampiquena. It’s a Mexican dish; I love it. I love steak.
WR: Is there anything else you’d like to add about working here or what you enjoy?
RK: Well, I guess I say I love to work over here because I can talk to the students, and it’s fun to be there. It would be hard for me not to talk to the students. I like to talk to people. Another place that I say I’d like to work at is a nursing home. I like to be around people.