Stir-Fry King Nestor Payan: A Day in the Life

Nestor Payan can be found behind the stir-fry counter during lunch and dinner, sizzling meat and vegetables while chatting with students as they wait in line for their meals.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Payan has worked at Andover since 2009 cooking for several food stations at Paresky Commons throughout his career. He wakes up at 6:30 a.m. every morning, and serves around 150 plates of stir-fry to members of the Andover community every day. The Phillipian’s interview with Payan was conducted in Spanish by Juan Pablo Ramos Barroso, Associate News Editor.

Payan drives from his home in Lawrence to Andover for his 10:30 a.m. shift. His morning routine consists of taking a shower, drinking a coffee, and spending time with his mother prior to heading to work. Once he arrives to school, he prepares himself for the day ahead.

The first thing I do is change into my uniform, and next I check the menu for the current day, the day that follows, and what we are serving that night. After, since I arrive in the morning, I prepare all of the food that needs preparing for the day, and I prepare the food for the next day during the afternoon,” said Payan.

Payan spends one half of his ten-hour shift cooking stir-fry for students and faculty alike, and the other half preparing ingredients for the meals that follow. His work day officially begins at 10:30 a.m., with a meeting for all Paresky staff that is followed by a break at 2:15 p.m. His shift ends at 7:00 p.m., and Payan says he often does not arrive home until 8:00 p.m.

“The kitchen closes at 2:00 p.m., but we have a meeting at 2:15 p.m. about the production that we have for the entire week. Any additional information for any event that employees are required to attend is given at that time,” said Payan.

Throughout his working hours, Payan and other Paresky employees can get lunch under the condition that there is someone at their assigned station and that they do not interfere with the faculty and students’ process of getting food themselves. Payan described the system in place for Commons’ workers meals, saying that there is an established set of rules at play.

“One cannot eat while serving food or while being behind a line, seeing how [Paresky staff] has a [designated] time for that. Sometimes we break the rules if we are very thirsty, but normally we can’t eat nor drink behind the line in which food is being served. Also, if we grab food with the glove that we use to serve food, we have to make sure that we change it because we don’t want to mix different foods together,” said Payan.

Even though Payan’s work hours are only from Monday to Friday, special occasions often arise that lead to extended work hours, whether it be on a regular weekday or for a specific event throughout the weekend.

“I often have to prepare food for special events whenever the school tells me to, such as in festive days like Thanksgiving. If the event aligns with [Paresky staff’s] regular work hours, our food stations take priority over the event. This leads to someone being found that can cover the event instead,” said Payan.

“Last Saturday, since it was Family Weekend, I had to come here and work around 11 hours preparing and serving food for the parents,” said Payan.

Apart from the special events, there have been instances in the past where Payan and his coworkers have had to spend the night in Paresky due to severe weather. According to Payan, Paresky is fully equipped with beds that are placed in designated spaces for the workers.

“I had to spend the night on two occasions because of snowstorms last year. [Most of the Paresky staff] slept in the building. [My co-workers and I] had to spend the night, because the students and teachers need to get breakfast the next day and if we had left, we wouldn’t have been able to come back in the midst of a storm,” said Payan.

Editor’s Note: Conversations with Nestor Payan were conducted in Spanish and were translated from Spanish to English by Juan Pablo Ramos Barroso, Associate News Editor for The Phillipian, vol. CXXXIX.