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The hands that feed us: Dewick−MacPhie Dining Center

Published: Friday, March 16, 2012

Updated: Friday, March 16, 2012 03:03


justin mccallum / the tufts daily

Before beginning work at Dewick eight years ago, Grazia DiFabio ran an Italian restaurant in Medford with her husband.

On any given day, the staff of Dewick−MacPhie Dining Center serves up to 2,000 people per meal, according to Lyza Bayard, communications coordinator for Tufts Dining Services. Dewick is known for not only the variety of dishes it serves, but also the vibrant staff it employs — each member with his or her own story to tell. Grazia DiFabio — Dining Services Attendant

A resident of the Boston area for 41 years, Grazia DiFabio moved to the United States at age 12 from Naples, Italy.

“I came with Christopher Columbus — almost!” she joked.

Her family came to America to provide her and her five brothers with better opportunities. The transition into American schools, however, was not easy for her.

“I did not know English before coming,” DiFabio said, adding that despite the language barrier, she eventually adjusted to her new home.

After high school, DiFabio married her high−school boyfriend and raised two children. She and her husband opened DiFabio’s, an Italian restaurant in Medford, where she was both manager and cook.

DiFabio inherited her cooking prowess from her mother and started cooking at the age of seven. Because her mother was busy working on the family’s farm, DiFabio and her brothers had to learn how to cook for themselves.

After running the business for 20 years, DiFabio sold the restaurant when her husband retired. It is now known as Pinky’s Famous Pizza.

When DiFabio came to Tufts eight years ago, she initially worked at the Commons Deli & Grill and then moved to Dewick, where she has been ever since. Having worked in the food industry for much of her life, she brought a wealth of experience with her.

“I knew how to deal with customers,” she said.

In her time at Tufts, DiFabio has especially enjoyed interacting with the students.

“I see them growing up,” she said, recalling moments when former students have come by during Alumni Weekend to say hello.

When she isn’t working at Dewick, DiFabio takes on her second job, babysitting. Following her day with students at Tufts, DiFabio takes care of her two−and−a−half−year−old grandson.

Although she is surrounded by a variety of food at Dewick, DiFabio’s favorite dish to cook is still lasagna. Leslie Phelan — Dining Services Attendant

Leslie Phelan is not new to Dewick or even to Tufts Dining Services. Before leaving to raise her family in 1991, she worked as a third cook at both Carmichael and Dewick.

She decided to reapply to work at Tufts after her daughter left for college.

“My husband said ‘go for it,’” she said.

Upon her return, Phelan sought out a job with more student interaction, her enthusiasm for the students she serves contributing to her love of her job at Tufts. She described meeting a homesick freshman when she first started, soon after her own daughter had just gone off to college.

“We both cried one day, and it was awesome,” Phelan said.

Over the past 20 years, Phelan has noticed substantial changes at Tufts, particularly the combination of the once separate Dewick and MacPhie Dining Halls. She also mentioned new practices that she’s observed, such as buffet style, noting that dining hall staff had previously served students.

Phelan admired the extensive renovations in Dewick.

“It’s actually really beautiful,” Phelan said.

In addition to working at Dewick, Phelan is also a mother with a son in middle school. Despite her training as a cook and her love of food, she does not cook much at home. However, she encourages her son, who has severe food allergies, to cook in order to help him become more comfortable with food.

“I make him cook a lot of stuff, and I make him try it,” she said. Christine Tringale — Third Cook

Cooking has always been a passion for Christine Tringale, who first learned from her parents.

“I think it’s more of an art,” she said.

Tringale graduated from the Medford Vocational Technical High School in 2009, where she began her formal education in the culinary arts.

After high school, Tringale went on to study at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston, where she received an associates degree. As part of her studies, she completed a six−week externship working in Dewick’s kitchen. After working at Tufts for a month, she was offered a job.

According to Tringale, the adrenaline rush of serving so many students makes her experience at Dewick distinct from her time spent in the kitchen of Le Cordon Bleu’s restaurant, Technique. She also enjoys contributing to and planning the special events frequently held in Dewick.

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