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Town of Outlook Spotlight: Laurie Anholt, Kitchen Manager

Part Nine of our special series on Town of Outlook staff members.
Laurie Anholt, kitchen manager of the Jim Kook Rec Plex, loves working both with and for the people. Photo: Derek Ruttle/The Outlook

OUTLOOK - The rink.

Every village, small town, and city in this province has got one, with each building undoubtedly having a thousand stories that they could tell.

The players, the parents, the people, the workers, the volunteers, the kitchen, the coffee, the food. My God, the food - burgers, fries, chicken fingers, onion rings, soup, chili on a it lunchtime yet?

In Outlook, if you're looking to chow down at the Jim Kook Rec Plex, then Laurie Anholt is someone who can make it happen for you. As the kitchen manager, it's her job to ensure that everything runs as smooth as possible and that the folks lining up for a coffee or a classic rink burger have everything that they need.

It's a role that while technically is new for Laurie, who's only worked at the rink for a few months, it also comes with familiarity for the long-time health care worker.

"I started in November," said Anholt, sitting down with this reporter in the Rec Plex. "I'm brand new. This was always on my bucket list, to try and see if I could make it better. I've come here to the rink with my grandkids, watching them play hockey, and I just wanted it to be a better experience. Not that it wasn't good before, but there's always better, right? So I thought, I'm going to put it on my bucket list, and I decided to do it this year. So, I'm trying it, and it's a lot of work. Under me are seven LCBI students, some who worked at the pool, and they've come over here now. They know their roles and they know what's expected of them."

While the town rink may not be as consistently busy as your normal, everyday restaurant, staff have to be ready when business certainly picks up due to events being held on the ice.

"It's busy - very busy," said Laurie. "Tournaments are huge here. I've gotten a lot of feedback. In fact, when I was working here one day, someone came and asked, 'Kitchen open?' and I said that I was prepping, but is there anything that you want? They said, 'No, I'm just here to tell you what a change you've made', so that was nice, it's always great to hear those kind of things."

A typical day for Anholt will see her come in and prepare dishes to ensure that they're in stock and ready for customers who are craving, say, a special dessert or a bowl of her very popular soup.

"I'll start with today," she said. "We have a tournament coming up tomorrow, the U-9's, which are the small kids. I'll come in the morning, around 10:00, and a typical day is basically prepping for tomorrow. I'll come in, do my puffed wheat squares, I'll get my lemon rice soup prepped, which is a staple for the Outlook rink right now. I have people coming in from Elrose and Eston to see who makes the soup in the kitchen and they want the recipe, but I'm not giving it to them! They'll just have to keep coming back! If anything isn't stocked, I stock everything up so that when the shift walks in, it's all ready to go. There's nothing they have to do except start into their jobs, which is opening the doors, making burgers, and waiting on customers."

When it's busy at the rink, the hours can go long. A tournament might start as early as 7:00 AM and go straight through until 8:00 that night, making for a challenging and demanding shift in the kitchen. And while the doors are generally kept shut on the rink, if there happens to be a game that night, the kitchen will probably open up during the day if anyone is wanting a coffee, a bag of chips or even a meal.

Laurie, who admits she can be very obsessive-compulsive, says one of the challenges of her job can be teaching younger people who want to work in the environment.

"I'd say the biggest challenges are teaching skills," she said. "My staff is phenomenal; you couldn't beat better people than who I've got. But it's teaching them, because I'm different, I'm very OCD. I like my kitchen immaculate and I like everything in its place. But you know what? It's coming along and it's day-by-day. We're working with students who haven't been in this field as long as I have. They're probably going to have their own routines eventually, and the thing with me is that you will get praised if you need to be praised. If you're doing a great job, I'm going to praise you for that, but if you're not doing a great job, I'm going to let you know!"

The flip side of those challenges are the people who Anholt sees on a daily basis, many who are grateful to have the kind of food and service that the Outlook rink is providing.

"People - I love people," she said, asked about the benefits of her job. "I like working with the students, the people, the kids here. We had a little group of kids here who came from Pre-K, and they were skating out there. I made Jello and handed it to them, and they were so grateful! Everybody was grateful to have Jello! I just love the people I'm surrounded by here."

It can be a common occurrence to walk into the Rec Plex and not see very many staff. While it may seem like there's "nobody around", the truth is that those people are likely being pulled in three or four directions at once, taking care of this or that task and then moving on to the next one on their list. Laurie says that staff work their butts off and hopes people will exercise a little patience when they come into the rink.

"That we work hard here," she said, when asked if there are parts of the job that the public may be blind to. "You might come in here and not see somebody or you might think that no one's around, but just stay still, and they'll make their way around! Don't go looking for them because they're likely busy doing something else. I've had comments about how clean it is even during service, so if there are spills, they're wiped up. That's another teaching thing I'm telling the students; clean up as you go. It makes for a less hectic job at the end of the day. We have a great facility here, and volunteers would be appreciated so much. Sometimes it's nice to work for the public and not be paid for it."

Coming from a similar job in the local health care field, Laurie says there isn't much about her new position that's been eye-opening for her, but she does say that she gets more enjoyment out of working at the rink amongst the people of the community and surrounding area.

"Compared to where I came from in health care, not really," she said. "It's still food service, and the only difference is I'm serving the public here whereas I was serving senior people there. I will say that I enjoy this more because you get the instant feedback. 'You're doing a good job, you're not doing a good job', they'll let you know and they don't have a problem telling you. Luckily, I haven't heard anything negative - yet! The year's not over!"

With everyone managing to resume their normal, daily lives and routines after the tight grip that the COVID-19 pandemic once held on all of us, Anholt says that Outlook stands out as a community by way of the facilities it has and the people who put in the blood, sweat and tears to make those facilities stand out.

"Coming to the rink and eating a good meal, that's what makes Outlook stand out," she said. "We have a beautiful facility. Bowling, curling, everything's going great as opposed to two years ago when we had nothing. It'd just be nice to have more volunteers. It's what we do as a people that makes it stand out."

If you loved something you ate at the rink or if you think something wasn't quite right, Laurie wants to hear from you. She says it's the feedback of the community that makes public venues put in the work to better themselves.

"Let me know if you're enjoying our service," she said. "If you're not, speak up because we like to hear everything. If it's negative, we want to better it, and if it's positive, then we know we're on the right track."

Okay, that's it, this reporter needs a rink burger right now.

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