Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

A Look Into the Life of Rhonda, Prentiss Dining Hall’s Omelette Chef

On any given morning in Prentiss Dining Hall, you can expect to hear a very familiar voice.”Order number four!” rings out over the smell of eggs and clinking of dishes. Rhonda, famous maker of omelets, has become an iconic figure of the Whitman College community. We decided to sit down with her and learn about the woman behind the breakfast.

Photos by Tanner Bowersox.

Originally from a small rural Texas town called Van, Rhonda went to school with the same peers throughout her entire education. On reflection of her childhood and school days, she fondly remembered the year her high school went to State for football, an unprecedented feat and point of pride. Still, she said life in Van wasn’t always exciting.

“It is in the Bible Belt, so it means it’s dry. No alcohol, nothing. If you didn’t hunt, fish or kill something, you were awful bored,” she explained.

Rhonda’s early years working in the food service paved her way to Whitman’s dining halls. “I’ve been in all kinds of food: burger joints, donuts, cafeterias, steak houses, breakfast houses. I’ve worked in food since I was young. My first job I started at a burger joint when I was 12 years old. That was before the children’s [labor] laws,” she said.

She moved her way through 13 other states before coming to Washington to work at Whitman. Pushed by the needs of her in-laws, Rhonda and her husband made their way from western Washington to Walla Walla, and they haven’t left since. When she got to Whitman, a breakfast cook job was available, and so she became the famed Prentiss Dining Hall omelet maker.

So it’s a good thing that, when asked her favorite meal, Rhonda responded, “I like breakfast … I really do. I like it because I’m in control; I don’t like to share my job”.

Now her third season at Whitman, Prentiss is only a small chapter in Rhonda’s life of cooking. “I traveled because of food, and if it weren’t for food, I wouldn’t have gotten to see the state of New York, or Florida or Colorado, because Washington was my 14th state,” she said. “My intentions were to go to Europe … but I met my husband instead, and there you go, it blew my Europe plans.”

It’s easy to see why students are fond of Rhonda’s morning greetings when you listen to her talk about the people who eat her food. “I enjoy the kids. Or, well, the young adults. They’re very kind. They’re very patient. We feed off of each other, I would say. I know probably 60 percent of the kids … And if I don’t know their name, I know what they eat.”

Though she’s spent time in countless other places, Rhonda spoke fondly of Walla Walla. Her favorite part of the area is the Blue Mountains: “You know once you’re up there on the top you get to see the patchwork of the wheat fields.”

In addition to the mountains, she spoke highly of the wildlife that resides in the area. “This morning when I got up I saw turkeys across the road, about 30 of them,” she said. Apart from the outdoor benefits of the area, Rhonda enjoys going to see theater productions. “If I do anything here, I like to go to the theater,” she explained. Her dogs are also a big part of her life. “If the dog can’t go, I can’t go.”

We ended our conversation with a request for advice from her experiences thus far. Immediately Rhonda responded, “Stay in school,” with a laugh. Despite multiple opportunities to attend culinary school, she hasn’t found it worth her time yet in this segment of her life. Upon reflection, she added, “To be honest, in retrospect, looking back on it, I should’ve gone to culinary school … I should’ve done it.” Especially for the current generation, she said, “If you don’t have some form of degree … you’re on the unemployment line.” Competition, she noted, is fierce nowadays. The more educated you are, she reasoned, the greater the opportunity. “It’s better off for you in the long run.”

On speculation of her own education, she said: “I like education; I’d like to go back to school and I intend to. And my intentions are to go back because the way I look at it, you keep [up] your mind, you got to continue. You’ll learn something every day for the rest of your life; the only thing you need to do is be open to it.”

Rhonda left us with a serious piece of lighthearted advice: “I’m trying to tell you all to have fun. I mean, you’re only young once … you’ve got to have that balance. You don’t have fun, it’s not worth it.”

 

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