How did you first get involved with Charter?
That was almost 18 years ago. One of my friends was working here at the beginning of the year, in September, I was looking for a part time job, so he called me because one of the people quit two weeks after they had opened. I came and filled out the application and I got an interview with Steve.
A couple of days later, he called me and I started working downstairs washing pots. Two months later, one of the servers quit, so I was moved up to serving food. The same year, the chef was only here for only four months and she quit after that. Steve was cooking for three months again, until he found another chef.
What do you do at the club?
During the week, I serve the dinners and supervise in the kitchen. Some days we have special buffets, but on Pub Nights, we have student servers.
On Saturday, I cook breakfast and lunch omelets and specials on the grill to order. Then, I serve at night. I also work all the special events like sophomore nights, alumni parties, Houseparties and any other outside catering jobs throughout the year.
What was your first impression of Steve?
It was a good impression. The funny thing was that at my first job, the name of my boss was also Steve. But it’s a big difference. The Steve here is a nice and calm person but my other boss had an attitude. Steve is a good club manager because he likes to teach you a lot of stuff. I’ve learned a lot of things here. Every day to me is like school, because you learn something new every day. Especially with Houseparties… Steve always tries to do fancy buffets and even fancier menus so people can see items in different ways and learn about new types of food. When we do the setting up, he is always changing his mind. So, after he tells us one way, then he changes his mind after seeing it all set up. The whole staff is used to that!
How has the Club changed over the last 18 years?
It’s changed so much. The computer room was two bedrooms. They had a computer room before that but it was a small room, I think it’s the game room now or something. Every summer, they do renovations like the computer room, the TV room, the pool table room. They sent the pool tables out for three months to do a full restoration. They spent a lot of money on the new member’s lounge in the basement next to the bar, the old work shop, and all the bathrooms.
What do you find most challenging about working here?
Every year, we get a different crowd and we always try to do our best. We try to work as a family and we try to see every student as part of the Charter family. During Houseparties, we try to improve and impress the members and their guests, who come from outside the Club. We hope they can also become members of Charter Club. During special parties, we do the omelets in front of people and we flip the eggs up in the air. It’s a good experience working here. Everybody is different and we have mostly good memories… and some bad memories.
What’s the best and worst thing to happen to you since starting to work here?
The best thing, to me, is that it is good to see everyone coming in here and talking to you and thanking you for the things you do for them. You try to do your best and a lot of people come back and say, “Thank you”. By the end of the year, everyone is so happy and saying, “We’re going to miss you!”. When they come back for Reunions, they are so happy to see everyone.
The worst day working here was when they had a big food fight in the Dining Room…
Can you tell us more about this food fight?
That was on a Thursday night and we had our famous “Bucket-O-Food” Night. That was like 12 or 13 years ago. We were serving fried chicken, ribs and French fries in the chicken buckets. The students had to wear white t-shirts so we put little wet towels on the table, but they didn’t use them! After they ate, they cleaned themselves with their t-shirts and everyone would have barbeque sauce on their shirts. They were drinking…beer, so they were probably drunk. That night, they started a food fight, so we stopped serving. To me, that was unfair because the chef had to spend all day making the dinner, which was a big job. The students came and started throwing food…there was barbeque sauce all over the curtains and walls. The funny thing is, when I went downstairs and told Steve, Steve walked into the dining room and the president threw a cherry tomato towards him and hit him right in the face. That night, we stopped serving dinner and the students had to clean the mess. After that, Steve said no more “Bucket-O-Food” Night. We do it occasionally, but we used to do it a lot more often. That was my worst experience!
Do you have any special talents or hobbies that we might not know about?
Special talents? I’d say sports—I like to play basketball, and I like to play soccer. I especially like to watch soccer… my favorite Spanish team is Real Madrid…my favorite English team is Manchester United.
Tell us about some of the people you’ve met while working here at Charter.
Like I say, I’ve met so many people working here. Especially, with the staff, I’ve worked with people from Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. I’ve become friends with many staff members, like Lydia Santiago, who went back to Costa Rica a few months ago. Our housekeeper Alex Reyes, chef Tom, and Hugo Del Cid, who makes our salad bar. I always look up to Joy Gillette, who the staff always calls “Mamí”. She has been here more than 30 years. I met her before I came to work at the Club when I worked at The Nassau Inn in downtown Princeton. I worked there for three months with her. My first job working in food service was for the Bristol Myers-Squibb cafeteria. It turned out that the Club’s weekend chef Vicente Rodriguez was also working with me at that job. I had no idea he also worked at Charter until I started.
Do you mind telling us about your family?
I’m single now. I got divorced 10 years ago. I wanted to keep the family together but it was hard. I remember how long I’ve been working here because my youngest daughter, Tamara, was about two months old when I started working here. She’s 18 now, and just graduated from high school. My son, Cristian, is 23 years old and is a private in the Marines. My oldest daughter, Angelica, is now 24, and working as a bookkeeper at a local car dealership. I came from Guatemala when I was 17 years old. Most of my life has been spent here in the United States. Most of my family, like my sisters and brothers, are all here. My mother just passed away a few months ago. It’s hard being without her and I think about her every day. But, I’m happy the way my life is right now. I always pray every day and thank God for another day. Whatever comes each day is just a bonus. The big thing to me is that I’m happy and healthy, and that’s what really counts.
Do you have a favorite memory of Charter?
One of the students got married here at the club and she asked me to dance with her at her wedding. That was a great memory because her wedding was in the middle of the summer. We had a big giant tent outside and a lot of guests attended. The party was amazing!
Do you have a favorite Charter meal?
The one I like, and that everyone likes, is our newer Artisan Taco Nights. I also love when we have Greek nights, because of chef Tom’s Baklava… always very popular!