At 6:30 a.m., five days a week, winter and summer, Kevin Moore, 41, who looks like a supermiddleweight boxer in his invariable burning-red or sunburst-yellow tee-shirts, opens the Coop's shining meat-and-produce drawers to scrutinize supplies: "Let's get the bacon going and the sausage links and patties," he says precisely. "Let's move this scrapple over here to the left side of the hot-top [open grill], so we can work the eggs and what-not when the first famished workers show up..." Which could be almost immediately, since the Douglas B. Gardner '83 Athletic Center, rising like a shot behind Whitehead (where the Coop energetically exerts itself, a tiny urban blip in the midst of Haverford's Quaker calm), is nearing completion..."A lot of the heavy work is done, so we don't have as many big gentlemen comin' in here as we did a few months back, but those that do are hongry..." Kevin jokes.
"Tell it, son," says Jeffrey Gladney, who helps him max the action once it starts, and who has just returned to full duty after a number of months on a reduced schedule at the Dining Center, the result of a bad back sprain. Gladney, who goes six-two, 220 lbs., is the cool influence in the hot kitchen, sliding around the crowded space like a jazz musician, never ruffled and barely sweating: "What can I do you for today, young man?" he asks the first breakfast customer. "Eggs? Scrambled? Care for a side? White toast? Rye?...Yes, the coffee's out front there for you, young man. Several varieties..."
On July 5th, the dead center of Haverford's summer, three days after Live 8, one day after Sir Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom concert on the Parkway, the Coop's team, which also includes Adele Amador, the deli-sandwich muse, and Judy Cohen, cashier and woman-of-all-work, weren't expecting much of a crowd. With a lot of the menu "prepped" beforehand — fried chicken lunches with mashed and veggies; chicken parmesan sandwiches with creamy cheese and lustrous tomato sauce; chipped beef on toast (a favorite of the Gardner construction crews) — Kevin's people thought the day would be light. Breakfast was: the second customer was a wiry guy in a white hardhat who ordered the Army's description of creamed beef on toast (unsuitable for print here); it caused a lot of laughing and badinage; the next fellow wanted eggs with scrapple and whole wheat toast — "I'm mixin' healthy eating with my natural self-destructive tendencies! I'm havin' OJ, too!" Next: "Two eggs together on rye toast with a little bit of cheese — whattaya got?"
"We've got provolone, Swiss, cheddar, American..." Kevin informed him.
"Amurcan's good, Amurcan — I'm feelin' patriotic."
Kevin grabbed the rye from a shelf just below the counter top, where it lay stacked neatly next to the white and whole wheat, and focused on the next customer..." I can juggle six orders at a time," he said, without a trace of pride.
"Really? How do you remember all the details?"
"You don't try to. You get the basics started — on a hamburger, say, you flop the meat out on the hot top with the perforated metal spatula — the meat presser — you get the fries going, you line the burger rolls up — it's like a kind of rhythm. Then you do the next person's basics and the next...When the meat looks right and it's time to move on, you just ask the customer again — 'You wanted what with that medium burger?' And they remind you. Otherwise, you'd be writin' up little pieces of paper and stringin' them on a wire like a short-order cook at Denny's..."
"After a while though, you kinda learn what individuals like and it's aut-o-ma-tic! Kannerstein? You know Greg? Nice guy. Hurt my knee once and didn't have time to go to the Infirmary? Gave me an Ace bandage... He likes scrambled eggs or a cheeseburger without the roll...Dick Wynn [VP for Finance and Administration, Treasurer] — you know he's the one who recommended me for this job, told John Francone [Director of Food Services] to try me out? — well, Richard's a cheeseburger with lettuce & pickle man, or else a deli tuna guy, or sometimes he'll go for a slice of pizza...Tom Tritton favors tuna and chicken salad, with pickle on the side...He likes it over here. More informal. Tom is a shirtsleeves president..."
Kevin points out the sociogeography of the Coop: way in back, to your right as you enter, last table, is for the Facilities guys, who like to talk about sports, politics, literature, movies — a rough salon, which attracts an eclectic mix...and so you get the odd English teacher, or literary jock, like Kannerstein, getting into it with, oh, Norm Ricker, the Director of Special Projects, arguing Haverford baseball, or NBA basketball, Iverson's haircut, the foolish length of big-league athletic trunks...Tritton and some of his staff and teachers favor the little wall tables near the two platter-dump sites; the longer tables across from them, along the windows, tend to get reserved for student intellectuals, grilling each other on course work while they chomp steak sandwiches, or the social semiotics of Ben Affleck's having married Jennifer Garner instead of JLo...The window tables closest to the terrace door and 18-year veteran cashier Cohen's perch are mostly for the aforementioned Gardner construction crews, and the talk there tends toward drywall technology and doubtful entendres —"Hey, Kev! What kinda chicken parts you got today?"
"Just wholesome parts, brother. You'll have to go off campus for what you have in mind..."
The Coop is a smaller operation than the Dining Center, up near Founders, but is the only Food Service program open all year to staff and students, the DC being largely reserved for summer camp visitors and special-project situations during the hot months of July and August. According to John Francone, the Coop will consume 50 lbs. of hamburger per week, as opposed to 100 lbs. a day at the DC; 75 lbs. of French fry potatoes as compared to 100 lbs. a day at the main facility (the Coop and DC are two parts of Dining Services, the others being Student Meals, Catering, and Faculty Dining). The Coop also uses five gallons of milk, 12 1/2 dozen liquid eggs (fresh pasteurized eggs that are shelled and whipped with citric acid to preserve them), 25 lbs. of chicken breasts, 80 loaves of bread and 25 lbs. of cheesesteak beef every seven days.
To watch Kevin, Jeffrey and Adele dispense all of this is a kind of practical physical symphony: as much of the food is "prepped" — peeled, scraped, separated etc. — as possible toward the end of the previous day's shift; Adele, whose beautiful 11-year-old daughter Chiqui (attending Serendipity Camp this year), will sometimes pass by to check her out, concentrates on deli food — egg salad, tuna sandwiches, ham and cheese; Jeffrey backs Kevin up on the specials, which today include Chicken Parm, Fried Chicken, Eggplant Parm, as well as catching the runover from Kevin's grill business when that gets too manic . . . "Yo, Chicken Parm! Chicken Parm again! Chicken Parm, three times, y'all..." And, if the D.C. is understaffed with a lot of "call-outs" (sick day-takers), or too busy on "special projects" to send help, Jeff has to double on "KP", too, walloping pots, blueplate dishes, and the endless brown and blue plastic trays the customers use to carry their food, through the wash sink, the "disinfectant" sink, and the rinse sink...then he has to lug the trays out front where the people line up, and stack them under the counter, negotiating like a politician in the forests of khaki- and jeans-clad legs and bellies milling hungrily above him...
"The heat is intense — yes it is," Kevin says cheerfully, stepping off to the side to swig Poland Springs Water and rehydrate, "but you get used to it." The whole Coop team (except for Judy, who's mostly out front), wears hair nets, white aprons, and rubber gloves — up to 12 sets a day apiece on the latter — for sanitary reasons. They move kinetically from 7:30 a.m. to about 10 a.m., the breakfast rush, and then take staggered breaks until 11:30, when the earliest lunch customers begin filtering in (Kannerstein and his friends usually show up then). Then it's like this until 2:30 p.m.:
"Ordering boneless chick-en, mayo-let-tuce, chef's salad — I said CHEF'S Sal-AD — yeah, that's it; hey Jeff, how's the Chicken Parms holding out? We got enough?? Need to make some more, bro, it's outselling EVERYTHING!"..."Back at YOU, Kev! I think we're all right for now, but I could put some more on later if you want..."
"Better do it NOW, J, these people are HUNGRY...okay, what can I get you? Oh, hello darling [to a hulking construction worker], you just want a cheeseburger? You'll need more than THAT, want some fries??...Can't get FAINT up in the AIR there..."
When things get too intense — either through sheer workload or man-made stress — Kevin will wait for a break, then go back to a storage room, or maybe the restroom, and haul out his battered bible. There he'll turn to Psalms 25 or 53 in the Old Testament — Oh my God...let not mine enemies triumph over me...Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge?...Or skip ahead to Galatians in the New Testament — Having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect in the flesh?
As a younger man, he'd kind of felt more in tune with the Old Testament , "which drew a line and stepped up to it," but he'd had a bad temper and a drinking problem then, having "grown up in foster homes all over Philadelphia." When he renounced alcohol "a long time ago," he got into a New Testament mode, and then he got himself out of Philly, heading for a Job Corps cooking school in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Then he married Angela Moore, and had a daughter, Ebony, now 10. After a series of jobs — The Fireside on Baltimore Pike, The Philadelphia Fish Company at 2nd and Chestnut, and a place in Frankford where he was fired for asking a waitress how to poach an egg (he could only scramble and fry then) — Kevin came to Haverford in 1994 as a dishwasher at the DC. He took a server's course at Bryn Mawr, Dick Wynn and John Francone gradually noticed his iron-man work ethic and leadership potential, and both responded well to Kevin's suggestion that he assume a job as the Coop's head chef, which hadn't really existed until then...That was three years ago.
After a really stressful day Kevin Moore will hit the Benjamin Strouse Weight Room in the lower depths of the Locker Building near the Alumni Field House, and while Gwen Stefani pulses "Hollaback Girl" and Coldplay zones out on "Speed of Sound" on Q102, he'll do some stretching: he'll open with 10 pull-ups to loosen his arms, then work his triceps with 70 to 75 lb. freeweights in sets of 10, doing maybe seven repetitions. Sweating lightly, Kevin, who goes five-seven, 180 lbs., will next move to the shoulder-pull machine for seven sets at 135 lbs., before trying the butterfly at 150: "But you have to watch that one. I only do sets of five to 10, because the butterfly will tighten your chest so much..." He likes the stepper for rhythmic goofiness, then 10 sets of 50 lb. leg lifts. In a year of bench pressing, he's gone from 125 to 225 lbs. in six or seven sets: "I owe my training to my man, Sadey..."
Of his future he says: "The kitchen is a young man's game, so I've got to keep in shape, but down the line, I'm looking at the bakery — doing something in baking...You don't have to jump around so much."
He laughs, in his precise way, a legacy of his days at Roxborough High School, where you were taught to enunciate: "They were always after you to be clear, be efficient. I've found that very useful in my life . . ."