Food for Thought: The Women Behind the Food


By Audrey McClish and Lily Morris

Walking through the cafeteria doors, which scent delights you most? Is it the savory smell of chicken fajitas or local veggie chili? Or does it come wafting from the salad bar’s rotation local produce like buffalo cauliflower and fresh oranges? Perhaps it is the scent of Morning Breakfast’s warm coffee cake and crispy tater tots that entice your taste buds. 

The Spyglass launched a full-blown investigation into the food that fuels our students by interviewing Dawn Ownis and Katia Giraschi-  the hardworking women that create, cook, and serve the wide variety of cafeteria food available at MBHS.

The Women Behind the Food

The daunting task of preparing food for a hungry school full of teenagers is left up to two courageous women, Ms. Ownis and Ms. Giraschi. While there used to be four cafeteria staff members, there is now only two resulting from the lack of school lunches being bought and provided. As one could imagine, this task requires a lot of work for just two people and a lot of time. Ownis spends 5 hours prepping and cooking the hot meals every morning. She is probably one of the earliest attendees, arriving at school around 6:15 to get the kitchen going. She says the most challenging aspect of her job isn’t the hours or work, but “being able to make good food while meeting the requirements.” These are requirements given by the federal government outlining the specific guidelines for making healthy school food such as different spices that can or cannot be used. A major spice on the restricted section is salt, meaning that yes- Ownis and Giraschi not only have to cook for teenagers all day, but they have to do it without salt.

Although students only see these women in the kitchen, each leads a colorful life outside of Morro Bay High School. Ms.Giraschi was a full time hairstylist before her children attended school. She began working for the district 12 years ago to sync schedules with her children. She still practices hairstyling on the side along with her job as an energy worker which Miraschi described as the healing of one’s inner light.

Ms. Ownis and her husband are the owners of Morro Bay’s Village Center Dry Cleaners. While running this well-loved business, she started cafeteria work five years ago. Ownis decided on this career because she has always had a “real passion for baking and cooking”. Her co-worker, Ms. Giraschi said that Ownis puts “love in the food she cooks”. Both agree that the most rewarding part of the job is when the students give feedback and let them know when they appreciate the food. They want students to know that they are able to take feedback to the food director so that the menu better reflects what students really like.

Come back to follow “Food for Thought” as we take this culinary journey through the MBHS lunch line back to its roots, its seeds…to its very core.

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