By: Reginald Coleman
Mama’s Delight and Joshua Levi
There are many different places to get pizza within the Kutztown area, such as “Camillo’s pizza,” “Uncle Joes,” and “Bene’s pizza.” However, there is one particular place at an intersection of White oak and Main Street that differs from the rest. On a typical Friday night, you’ll see “Mama’s Delight” packed with college students grabbing a bite to eat. “Mamas Delight” has a wide range of food selections such as pizza’s, steaks, cold sandwiches and pasta dishes. They also have Kutztown Student specials; you can dine in and eat, you can order and pick up your food, or request fast and free delivery to your location around the Kutztown area.
I interviewed Joshua Levi who’s an employee at “Mamas” (for short) and a first semester freshman at Kutztown University. I chose to interview Josh because I’ve seen both sides of him, as a worker and also as a student. Whenever I see Josh at “Mamas” on a busy day he’s usually preparing several pizza pies at a time, making a massive amount of pizza dough, or chopping steaks, all at one time. On a slow day at “Mamas,” Josh is usually preparing a few pies, folding pizza boxes, or engaging in conversation with a few customers. On campus, I usually run into Josh at the library studying, or in the lounge at his hall doing school work. His ambition to maintain good grades in college, while working countless hours at “Mamas” is simply amazing and inspirational to me.
When interviewing Josh in the privacy of his own hall, in the lounge on the 5th floor of Bonner Hall, I started by asking Josh where he began in the food industry and how long has he been working in the pizza business. Smiling, Josh said:
“I started out working in a restaurant as a bus boy at the age of 14. I worked my way up to the kitchen of the restaurant where I was trained to make pizzas. After learning how to bake pizzas at the restaurant, I moved to a pizzeria close to home where I started baking pizzas there.”
Curiously, I asked Josh, who or what influenced him to work in the pizza business at such a young age. He replied:
“Umm … it was pretty much the job itself.”
Why? I asked.
“I felt like it was an ideal job for me at the moment because I needed money for many reasons. I could never really imagine myself working at clothing store or any place else because it’s not me. I always imagined myself running around a kitchen, working at a fast pace, getting things done while being on my feet. Not walking around a store helping customers pick out outfits and clothe sizes.” Josh replied.
Since the age of 14, Josh has been working in the pizza business. This year marks the 4th year Josh been working in the pizza business with many years to come.
Knowing that there are other pizza businesses in town like “Uncle Joes” and “Camillo’s Pizza,” I asked Josh, what made you choose “Mamas” as a place for you to work at? Fixing his glasses, Josh paused … he then said:
“Actually, after class one day, I walked to “Mamas” to get a slice of pizza. I knew a friend of mines who worked there. We’ve known each other for over ten years …”
Josh was thrown off track about his friend. Picking up where we left off, I asked him how he got the job at “Mamas.” Josh said:
“Oh yeah, my friend’s roommate and I were having a conversation about food. I told her about my job at home, and she told me that “Mamas” were hiring and that I should apply. It was a spontaneous thing, like I wasn’t expecting this to happen but I applied anyway. About a week later, the owners’ wife called me in for an interview and BAM! I got the job.”
After congratulating Josh on his acceptance at “Mamas,” I asked him how was his working transition from the pizzeria around his way, to working at “Mamas.” Giggling, Josh replied:
“It’s pretty much the same. The main difference is prep wise; at the old pizzeria I worked at, we use to make pizza pies, calzones, Stromboli’s and everything else once a week. We would stock up on them like once or twice a week; then during opening, we would reheat them and use them for one or two weeks.”
What about “Mamas?” I asked. “At “Mamas,” however, we make everything fresh per order. If someone would order a Stromboli or a pizza pie, for an example, we would make it right there in front of them.” Josh said. Every time I go to “Mamas” for a bite to eat I never want to leave. I’m always playing video games there, talking to other customers or workers, or watching T.V. with a group of friends. The environment is so comfortable and relaxing, and everyone, including the workers are so friendly. So I asked Josh what he thought about the environment at “Mamas.”
“It’s like a family oriented environment. Whenever I need help making something, or if I have a question about how much cheese do I put in this calzone, a worker is always there to help me. Everyone is very nice, and understanding of the fact that I am a student as well as a worker. The customers are usually nice; of course there are a few rude customers here and there but overall it’s a fun, busy place to work at. I actually love it there.”
After learning about the friendly environment that “Mamas” has to offer, I then asked Josh to make a pizza.
How to make a Pizza
Knowing the basic recipe to making pizza dough, I asked Josh, when it comes down to making pizza dough for pizza pies or anything else on the menu that requires pizza dough as its base, do you measure out the amounts for the dough, or do you know the measurements naturally?
“Umm… Working at the last pizzeria I got used to hearing “Josh I need pizza dough made, quickly!” At first I would try to measure the ingredients out as fast as possible but that didn’t always work. I didn’t have any choice but to memorize the ingredients; so at the old pizzeria I use to work at or even now at “Mamas,” if we’d run out of dough, I don’t even take my time measuring the ingredients. Knowing the amounts needed like 4 cups of flour, or 2 teaspoons of salt, comes natural to me because I’m use to looking at the same amount of ingredients over and over again.”
Speaking of ingredients, are there any special ingredients or sauce “Mamas” use for their pizza or pizza dough? After sharing a moment filled with laughter, Josh replied:
“All I know is that the cheese that “Mamas” use for their pizza pies is much more expensive and rich than the cheese at the old pizza business I worked at. I don’t know about any special recipes, I don’t think I’ve worked there long enough to know it anyway if they do have one ha-ha!”
Since you mentioned the cheese differences between your old pizza business and “Mamas,” what makes “Mamas” cheese so special?
“Well, at my old pizza place, the cheese was cheap. I use to put a lot on the pie just so the cheese can melt easily and evenly. “Mamas” cheese is Grande cheese which is expensive. When I first started working at “Mamas,” I use to put a lot of cheese on the pies and they stopped me and explained to me that I only needed a little bit. So I started to put a little bit of cheese on the pies and now I understand why.”
Why? I asked.
“Well, because at first it may seem like a little bit, but when you take the pizza pie out of the oven, the cheese is melted evenly and it’s so cheesy. A little bit of cheese goes a far way with “Mamas” cheese.” Replied Josh, as we both giggled again.
I then asked Josh what’s his favorite dish to make at “Mamas” and why. He replied:
“Stromboli’s because I love to eat them ha-ha. I also love the art of making a pizza pie-shaped dish with toppings and transforming it into a “pizza sandwich.” I know it might seem crazy but in reality that’s what it is, the ends are just sealed.”
Speaking of Stromboli’s I asked Josh, how many Stromboli’s, calzones, or pizza pies does he make per shift with “Mamas” special Grande cheese? He said:
“I would say about seventy orders or more on a busy day, and about 35 orders on a slow day. That’s just estimating, I don’t really keep count.”
And how many hours do you work per week at “Mamas”? Josh replied:
“Some weeks I work a minimum of 25 hours and a maximum of 40 hours, depending on the week.”
Life as an employee and a student
Learning how much time and effort Josh put into work at “Mamas,” I wondered what it’s like being a student employee. So I asked him is it easy being a student as well as a worker. After pausing for a moment, Josh replied:
“Not really. Well now it is because at my last job, I went to school in the day time and worked several hours at night. I do the same here at Kutztown and for “Mamas” so I’m used to it.”
What’s your strategy for balancing school and work? I asked.
“I try to keep them separate.” Josh said. “I keep two different mindsets; when I’ at school, I keep my mind off of work and when I’m at work, I keep my mind off of school. It’s easier for me to work that way.”
Why is it easier? I asked.
“It’s easier because I’m able to work on them each individually at different times, instead of trying to do them both a once. That’ll create frustration for me and I’ll get over whelmed, thinking about both at the same time.” Josh said.
I then asked Josh if working at “Mamas” affect his sleeping schedule and if so, why. He said:
“Yes. I actually have a terrible, terrible sleeping schedule. I’d finish work late, sometimes around 11:30pm. I usually get back to my hall at 12:00am, and usually don’t fall asleep until like 3:00am because normally I can’t sleep. I then have to get up at 7:00am and get ready for my 8:00 class.”
Curious about what Josh is like outside of school and work, I asked him what he likes to do aside from school and work. He said:
“I like to relax, sleep, listen to music, make spray paint art, and create songs. And then you know, hang out with friends and do whatever.”
Why? I asked. Josh said:
“Well, because I’m able to take my mind off of everything. I can unwind and relax my body and mind, and hang out without worrying about homework or the time I have to be at work.”
I started telling Josh about my culinary experience throughout high school and how I thought I wanted to be a chef. I told him that I was so close to going to Johnson and Wells University for culinary arts, but I ended up going to Kutztown University for Secondary Education. I then asked Josh if he could see himself owning a pizza shop in the future. He replied:
“I think I can if Kutztown doesn’t work out for me Ha-Ha.” Chuckling, Josh continued:
“I’m currently a Bio major, so owning a pizza shop is not where my head is right now but who knows. I probably will own one in the future, I don’t know.”
Do you have any short term or long term goals for “Mamas”?
“My short term is to get a raise. For my long term goal, I plan to be a valuable investment for their (“Mamas”) future.” Josh said.
What do you mean by “Investment for their future? I asked.
“I mean, training new people, being “Mamas” most valuable worker, and possible working my way up to head cook before graduating at Kutztown University.”
For final remarks in regards to this interview, I asked Josh to describe himself in the kitchen. He said:
“I’m usually fast paced and zoned out. Once my mind is set on making pizza or any other dishes, I’m focused only on accomplishing that. I’m sweaty at times, and quiet at times, and a bit shy when talking to customers compared to other workers. However, my uniqueness is easy to spot out because of my hard work in the kitchen (not saying that others don’t work hard) and also because I’m new ha-ha.”
I then asked Josh, If he could connect his personality in the kitchen to a specific food, what would you be and why? He said:
“A jalapeno pepper popper because I’m hot, I have a kick to me, and I have flavor. But not too hot to where my hotness can overpower my flavor!”
In closing, I asked Josh over all what has he learned thus far while being in the pizza industry. He said:
“I learned that it’s something to do if you’re looking for a job while you’re at school, or just to make a living. You can even turn it into a profession. Thus far I’ve learned how to develop social skills, how to work fast and accurately, and discipline. Most of all, I learned that people will judge your work ethic based on your pace and attitude at work.” Josh then mentioned:
“I’ve also learned that there are more than American foods in this world. Working in a pizza business makes me want to travel around the world and experience different foods and embrace different cultures.”