Kitchen Staff Enjoys Creative Freedom They Have Here

With a combined total of 32 years of experience, the lunchroom staff sure knows their way around a kitchen.
By Wayne Ireland
Staff Writer
With a combined total of 32 years of experience, they sure know their way around a kitchen. They are only seen once a day — and only for a few minutes for most students — but they play an important role in our everyday lives here at Woodlynde.

Lunchroom staff Mr. Joe Ponessa, Mrs. Kontros, and Ms. Fisher run the kitchen at Woodlynde and have prepared numerous mouth-watering meals for the 130 students on lunch contract, plus the dozens of faculty, staff, and administrators — all of whom love the lunches here.

Many students like the meatball sub, including junior Kendra Hyvarinen, who said the taste reminds her of the home cooked meatball sub she used to eat in her home town of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Sophomore Connor Seits enjoys the fish and chips, and senior Alex Nunn loves the chicken cordon bleu because they are delicious.

Even though the weekly lunch menu includes a wide variety of meals, the kitchen staff would like to add even more to the mix. There is plenty of food that Mr. Ponessa, Mrs. Kontros, and Ms. Fisher would like to make, such as whole cuts of beef, or vegetarian entrees. Unfortunately, they are confined to work within a certain time limit because they have to feed everyone in less than three hours, so those options aren’t possible.

The time it takes to prepare a meal varies, depending on what food it is; for example, Cuban sandwiches take longer than hot dogs. They start preparing these sandwiches at 8:30 a.m. Hot dogs are made much faster, as they can be cooked within minutes.

When it’s time to plan the weekly lunch schedule, all three of them sit and talk about what food to make next. They used to take student suggestions, but that ended because people stopped requesting food; however, they hope to restart the practice again.

After agreeing on a meal to make, they order the ingredients, and in a couple of days, a truck with everything they need to cook arrives.

Because Mr. Ponessa, Mrs. Kontros, and Ms. Fisherare such skilled cooks, there is a bigger chance that ingredients and supplies will come in late than of them burning the food. One time about 10 years ago, however, they made grilled steak and accidentally set off the fire alarm, Mrs. Kontros said.

When not in the kitchen preparing food, Mrs. Kontros spends time with her two dogs and listens to music, while Mr. Ponessa likes to go kayaking and work as a caterer. Ms. Fisher works at a library as an assistant librarian and spends her time outdoors.

Mr. Still, or George, as some people know him, is the man behind the scenes. He washes the plates, puts out the utensils, and takes out the trash.

He has worked at Woodlynde for 27 years, because, he said, “I just like working with others and they treat me very well here.” Even though he is a man from New York City, he loves living here in Pennsylvania.

Combined, the four of them have worked at Woodlynde for 59 years.

Ms. Fisher is the newest to the crew, having only spent four years at Woodlynde. Mrs. Kontros has worked in the kitchen for 10 years, and Mr. Ponessa has spent 18 years at Woodlynde.

When asked why they have stayed with our community for so long, they all agreed with Mr. Ponessa when he said: “We like the people and the schedule, we like working at a school, and we also like the creative freedom we have on the food.” 

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Woodlynde School is a private, co-ed college prep day school located in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that serves intelligent, talented students with learning differences in grades K - 12. Woodlynde provides a comprehensive, evidence-based Kindergartenelementarymiddle and high school program in a challenging yet nurturing environment for students with average to above average cognitive abilities (IQ) who have language- or math-based learning differences (such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia or Dyscalculia), Executive Function Challenges, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Auditory Processing Disorder. Even for those students without a diagnosed learning disability (LD), Woodlynde offers expert and caring teachers in small classroom settings that support academic success. Woodlynde School also offers a post-graduate (PG) program in partnership with Rosemont College as well as a regional Summer Camp for students who learn differently.