The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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The Student Intern Behind @stjohnsdining

Ames presents a kettle and irish breakfast tea to the “Win it Wednesday” Giveaway winner and of course, directs her to the best lighting and poses for an instagram picture.
Torch Photo / Olivia Meyer

A student quietly purchases a snack at the Market Montgoris, with hardly any conversation beyond a “thank you.” Tiqua, the Market cashier, wore her mask and was quiet as she rang up her items and sent the student on her way. Once she was finished she looked to the left, took her mask down,said, “Hey lady!,” and smiled. 

Marykate Ames walked in and answered her, “Hey lady, did your mom come in yet? What are you going to do with her this weekend?” 

An animated Tiqua went on to tell Ames stories of being in Church with her mom and siblings when she was a child. They talked about how Long Island bagels were the best bagels and touched on Ames’s weekend plans.

Not many, if any, St. John’s students would know this about Tiqua; many might not even ask her name or pay attention to her name tag. Ames knows that she is from Rockaway, her parents are from Maryland and her siblings live in many different places. They have laughed and even cried together. 

Many food workers around campus have similar conversations with Ames Monday through Thursday when she is on the clock working as a student intern for Chartwells, the company behind all the dining services at St. John’s University. She is the only student intern for the company on campus and assists the Northeast Regional Director of marketing. 

She wears many hats in her internship, and the one students see the most is her work on the dining services Instagram account. Ames currently runs everything on the page.

Before she took over in October 2021, there were less than 1,000 followers since the account was created in 2013. The posts would average about 50 likes for each post, and generally captured whatever food promotion the dining hall served that day. 

Ames was nervous to follow in those footsteps, but the wave of excitement from the subject of her first post flushed all those nerves away. Bertha is in charge of the G8 Station in the dining hall that serves students with allergies. Everyday she plans which meat, starch and vegetable she can make for many students with dietary restrictions. After Ames’s first post, more students became aware of that.  

“Bertha is someone who comes over and says, ‘I love you, I love you! You make my day,’” Ames stated as she was scrolling proudly through the Instagram account flooded with new high quality pictures of food from all over campus and now different features of the staff. “She hugs me…  ever since that first day October 5th she comes over, she brings me to her station and she’s like ‘I made this today!’” Ames noted her eagerness to present her work, which sometimes appears on the page. 

Ames scrolls through the instagram page @stjohnsdining showing off what she has posted since starting her internship with Chartwells while also reviewing her tasks for the day.
Photo Credit / Olivia Meyer

Bertha was not the only chef to be featured. Her next post featured Angela, the omelet chef, a fan favorite for St. John’s students. On any given day the line at her station will take up half of the food area, but she had not been featured on the account until Ames stepped in. Just three days after she started posting, Ames brought in over 500 likes and 60 comments from students praising Angela and her omelets. 

As a student who was now working with adults to market to her fellow students, Ames featured these chefs because she knew that is what she would want to see. She adds her flair to the account, bringing in students to participate by modeling for posts, winning giveaways and asking students what they want from their dining services. 

When she’s not posting on the Instagram account, she is coordinating events, including a Drag Dinner. This event, catered by St. John’s Dining, featured two local drag queens who came to campus to perform to a full room of students. 

Ames thought of the idea when the dining services were thinking about an LGBTQ+-centered event during LGBTQ+ history month. “There’s not a lot of representation already on campus and [St. John’s Dining Services] doing this gives it another level,” said Ames. “It’s not just being shared by whoever’s in the LGBTQ+ club, it’s being sponsored by a St. John’s sponsored account too.” 

She planned the event, reached out to the drag queens, created and distributed the tickets, purchased decorations and promoted the event. Ames even made sure to document it all on Instagram in real time. 

Walking into the event and seeing a room full of students was David Golden’s favorite memory he shared with Ames. Golden is the Northeast Regional Manager for Chartwells and is Ames’ boss. Because he is often working at any of the different Northeast colleges that Chartwells caters, Ames is his eyes and ears at St. John’s. “I can trust that when I am not here she’s not going to do nothing,” Golden said.

She works closely with her boss and colleagues to ensure that not only all the work is done, but to also build connections that keep her closely involved in her two passions: food and people. 

Part of the reason she wanted to work in the food industry is because she believes that there is a lot you can learn about a person by the food that they eat. It is almost difficult getting Ames to discuss herself because so much of what she talks about is how amazing she finds everyone she meets, and she is able to use their food to start those conversations. 

“I learn so much from them because they’re such a diverse group of people and they’re from all over, Ames said, noting Rebecca — the pastry chef at Monty’s — and her spring trip to Brazil. She knows about Bertha’s crafting business on the side, and appreciates getting to know the people behind her favorite foods.  “These people are so interesting and they care so much so you just unlock a little something that they like and they share so much about themselves with you.” 

She took the internship to improve her marketing skills and break into the food industry to prepare for culinary school, but she also gained the knowledge of Tiqua’s childhood stories and Rebecca’s fine dining history, which to her, is the best part.

 

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