Samantha Wang ‘21
After eating so many brownies and chocolate chip cookies, most of us here at St. Mark’s still don’t know where the bakery is… You should definitely come and meet our baker Esther in the FLIK dining team! With her magical baking skill and speed, Esther feeds the whole school desserts every day.
Don’t ever ask questions like “Does the school buy the Oreo cake from outside” or “where does the school get these cookies” again. If you still wonder where the dessert we have every day comes from, you can go downstairs to the back of the FLIK kitchen. When you hit the basement, turn right and then go straight. You can easily get to the bakery by following the smell of chocolate chip cookies. Then, you will meet our baker Esther, who will definitely stop her busy work right away and talk to you. Soon, you will find out Esther is a magical baker who makes all the dessert for our school by herself! Almost 300 cookies of different flavors, 200 brownies, 200 muffins, dozens of jelly cups, flavor bars, cakes, and pies… these are what she can make every single day.
Normally, Esther arrives at St. Mark’s at 5:30 am, and her first task of the day is baking different flavors of muffins. After the breakfast rush, Esther starts to bake regular cookies and brownies and decides what other desserts she is going to make, such as chocolate Oreo cakes and cherry jelly. Although Esther barely has time to take a break during the day, she still has to order all the food materials and tools she needs by herself. Sometimes Esther also goes to the local markets to buy fresh cream and dressings for cakes.
The busiest day in the week for Esther is our “Cookie Tuesday”. Every Tuesday, she needs to bake three extra plates of cookies (about 80 cookies) to feed the students during the X Block. Therefore, Esther always comes in a little bit earlier than 5:30 am and finishes all the baking preparation works. Since Esther believes it is very important for people here to have healthy and fresh desserts, she avoids placing remaining cookies from previous days in the small dining hall or at the dessert bar. “Luckily, we almost never have dessert left over! Cookies are so popular and they usually run out very fast,” said Esther. She loves to see people at St. Mark’s enjoy the “Cookie Tuesday”, but at the same time, she hopes we can clean up for ourselves after having cookies in the small dining room since she is already very busy. Shelby Howard 19’, one of the monitors at St. Mark’s School, sends an email with pictures to the whole school when the small dining room gets really messy. At the start of the school year, Shelby said, “We hope that you all enjoyed our first cookie Tuesday this past week. However, in order to continue having this privilege, we must keep our school’s spaces clean. If you spill something, pick it up. If you use something, put it back. It’s the respectful thing to do!”
Esther said she does not have an assigned menu for dessert except when the trustees are coming or at the end of the school year, “I like to bake whatever I feel like doing that day, but I have two ‘rules’— first, try to make desserts which are corresponding to the seasonal food materials or holiday theme; second, keep some routine desserts like chocolate chip cookies to satisfy everyone’s taste,” said Esther. During the fall season, Esther has made some pumpkin and maple-flavor bars and pies to let people at St. Mark’s have a taste of fall. On Groton Day, Esther created zebra-like cookies to support St. Mark’s athletes in her warmest way. Carl Guo 22’, who plays thirds boys soccer in the fall, said, “I cannot go to a game without a chocolate chip cookie! Our baker is awesome!” Esther is also excited for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas Day because she hopes to surprise the St. Mark’s community with holiday-themed desserts!
While we interviewed Esther on the day of the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, she was helping Ms. Zhu to cut mooncakes while also preparing the desserts for the school seated meal. After Esther was told that some students believe FLIK buys the delicious cakes outside of school, she laughed and asked us to invite them downstairs to join her in making the cakes together. Finally, Esther told us she loves her job as a baker here and she is happy to see how popular the desserts are. However, since she is the only one who works in the bakery downstairs, she does not have as many chances as other FLIK staff who work in the kitchen to meet the students and faculty at St. Mark’s. Esther welcomes everyone to come downstairs to visit and learn how she makes dessert. She looks forward to saying hi to us!