RANDOLPH - "Life revolves around food," said Lori Benson, of Randolph, and hers certainly does. She is in her 11th year as food service director for Randolph Central School District, and before that she worked for a food service management company at Warren County School District and Bradford Area School District.
Her job consists of managing both the high school and Gail N. Chapman Elementary School cafeterias and kitchens. Not only does she do all of the regular ordering from all of the suppliers that it takes to run her kitchens, but she is responsible for ordering government commodities, as well. A monthly inventory is done of her purchases, and the food the United States Department of Agriculture sends to her. She must see to it that this food is stored safely and is on her daily menu so that it can be used in a timely manner.
The scheduling and supervision of the staff in both kitchens, record keeping for the local district, as well as the state and federal governments are not as challenging as trying to keep abreast of the strict regulations and guidelines of the ever-changing Federal School Lunch Program.
Lori Benson, of Randolph, is ready to serve her four female cousins Double Coconut Cupcakes, Tastefully Simple Pizza Pull-Aparts, Chicken Piccata and Chocolate Bit Bars.
Photos by Beverly-Kehe Rowland
During the summer, when regular school is not in session, Benson runs the summer lunch program. She also works at Cardinal Hills Golf Course two to three nights per week as a short-order cook and cooks for the Member-Guest Tournament.
She has been a consultant for Tastefully Simple for five years and enjoys going into people's homes, where she serves the delicious snacks and dishes prepared from the products from the company's line.
"It is simple, because most products are either open and serve or require the addition of just one or two ingredients," she said. "You can go online to get more recipes for most products. For example, one of the most popular products, Beer Bread Mix, has over 250 variations.
"Tastefully Simple is an in-home tasting party, and each party has 15-17 samples for partygoers to taste," she continued. "Some organizations host the parties as fundraisers."
Today's cook said she got interested in cooking from her mother and a neighbor, Diane Bourne.
"When I was a little girl my mom and Diane would bake Christmas cookies together. I remember tables covered with cookies," she said.
She tells of backyard cookouts with her neighbors and an annual block party, where the street was blocked off, a pig was roasted and the party went into the night.
She remembers occasionally cooking dinners for her family, because her mother and father both worked. She cans tomatoes every year, a tradition her mother, Agnes Stahley, and Diane taught her.
When she is not working she enjoys camping with her family as often as possible and visiting new and different campsites. Each summer the family goes to Waldemere Park and is hoping to go to Cedar Point, near Sandusky, Ohio, this year. She likes to visit wineries in her travels and enjoys hosting parties.
"We have a lot of picnics and cookouts, and this summer we are hosting the 10th annual Stahley Family Reunion.
"I always have my cousins' grandchildren in to decorate Christmas, Easter and Halloween cookies."
Speaking of cousins, she has gone on a weekend overnight Christmas shopping trip to Erie, Pa. with a group of her female cousins for more than 20 years.
"Because I only had two brothers, five of us female cousins get together," she said. "We exchange names for birthdays and the person who gets the name of the birthday person hosts the party and buys a gift."
As a matter of fact, the cousins came in to enjoy the food that was prepared for today's photo.
She is a member of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church Altar and Rosary Society. Her husband, Rusty Benson, is a brake operator at Jamestown Metal Products. They have two children. Their daughter, Corinne Dauphin, is recently married, attends Alfred State and lives in Olean. Their son, Cody, is in the pre-nursing program at Jamestown Community College. The family has a Labrador retriever mix, named Tank.
The Chocolate Bit Bars were one of her and her brothers' favorite recipes growing up. Both that recipe and the ginger cookies recipes were her mom's. The Mexican Chicken recipe, a spicy dish, is frequently requested by both her husband and her brother. She gives credit to her sister-in-law's mother, Connie Stewart, for the Extra Creamy Macaroni and Cheese recipe. The Lime Chicken and Shrimp Kabobs are always a hit at the Cardinal Hills Lady Golfers end of the year banquet. The Chicken Piccata recipe came from a favorite local restaurant and is her most requested recipe when she is having a guest to dinner.
Benson can be reached by calling 358-9037 to schedule a Tastefully Simple party.