11 Jun 2021

Returning to Campus: Camilo Meneses


By: Shona Simkin

Camilo Meneses is the executive sous chef at the Chao Center. While Executive Education has not had any in-person sessions since the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020, Chao was open for students and staff until later in the fall, when all dining operations were centered in Spangler. We asked Camilo about his experience feeding the HBS campus community throughout this time, and how his concerns about his and his family’s safety have been addressed.

Has your role and schedule shifted since the pandemic? Along with changing locations and having different clients, our role in the kitchen has also changed. One of the biggest immediate changes was that all of the buffets, salad bars, and plated food stations closed and we started packaging all food offerings. Our staff began to receive training on how to operate in the kitchen with COVID restrictions and guidelines, and our model of service evolved throughout the pandemic. Our staff was very flexible with all of the changes that were thrown their way, and I am very proud of them.

I am very grateful for Harvard’s generosity during this pandemic. We have been able to work during these hard times. I feel very lucky to work for such a great organization who takes such great care of their community.

How long have you worked at HBS?
I was hired by Restaurant Associates as a sous chef in Spangler Center in January 2017. Prior to this position, I had been working in Boston restaurants for eight years. I worked for Ming Tsai at Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon, and for Jaime Bissonnette and Ken Oringer at Coppa Enoteca. Although I love the restaurant industry, I was looking for a change in work/life balance while still being able to create delicious food. And, my wife and I were hoping to start a family. We welcomed our first baby in late 2017 and I was very glad I made the decision to come to HBS; it was the change I was looking for. I’m usually here at HBS most weekday mornings by 5 am.

What were some of your concerns about working during the pandemic, and how were those addressed? With two young children at home, including a newborn, one of my main concerns was protecting them since I was still coming into work and had more possible exposure. I developed a routine to clean and sanitize myself and my work gear so I could hopefully avoid bringing germs home. At work I wanted to ensure that my staff felt safe coming to work. In my opinion, HBS was ahead of the game in many aspects. We were getting our temperature checked daily prior to working, we began wearing masks very early on, and social distancing was implemented very early on as well. COVID 19 testing and Crimson Clear were very important safety measurements that the University implemented for the community. With all of these in place, I felt safe when coming into work and I knew that work was a safe place to be. Now, my wife and I are both vaccinated and it is nice to begin seeing restrictions being lifted. It gives us all hope of normalcy getting closer and closer.

What has it been like to be on campus during this time?
Campus has felt very different. I think the biggest shock was not having commencement and reunion for 2020 and 2021. These are two of the biggest events of the year for HBS and we have not had one in two years. These are events in which thousands of people gather to celebrate. But I’m sure we will make up for lost time!

Have there been any professional and personal high points?
Personally, my two high points during the pandemic were welcoming a second baby boy in February 2020 and buying a new home in September 2020, with a big yard for my boys to run around. Professionally, once we mastered the system of production and service with the “new normal,” we were able to improve our menu options and offer more variety. Food is comforting, and we hoped to provide that for people.

Have there been any challenges?
My grandfather passed away from COVID complications. He was 90 years old, but full of life. He passed away at the height of the pandemic, so family was not allowed to go into the hospital to say goodbye. Professionally, there have been many changing guidelines over the course of the pandemic, which proved to be challenging, but we tried to stay focused and flexible so that we could adapt, accommodate, and change our model of service appropriately.

What has been particularly helpful during this time?
My family has been my rock during the pandemic; spending time with my wife and kids and watching them grow. Kids are resilient and they are excellent inspiration. In the workplace, staying informed, and being resilient and having a positive outlook.

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