It’s 5:30 a.m. in Auburn, Washington and Chef Zuzana Rachal is preparing breakfast for her school family at Auburn Adventist Academy.
Whether Rachal has the early morning or daytime shift, she finds great joy in providing quality and diverse food for young people.
“There are two parts that I 100% love about my job: working with young people and being part of their lives, and creating international foods,” said Rachal. “I love Googling and learning new [recipes]. Sometimes I’ve never made a dish before. I love the challenge of making something new.”
Rachal made a commitment early in her career to integrate international flavors into her school menus. Rachal invites students and faculty to share ethnic flavors and recipe requests that she can then recreate for the whole school family, often in consultation with local chefs and cooks regarding specific flavors or techniques.
“I absolutely love experiencing different cultures through food here at the cafe,” Rachal said. “All from scratch, of course!”
For Hispanic heritage month in September, Auburn students tasted vegetarian Ropa Vieja (Cuba), Mexican Piccadilly, Honduran rice, Salvadoran pupusas and curtido, plus tamales and plantains.
Other times, the menu features Thai, Mediterranean, Korean, Caribbean, African, Pacific Islander or German flavors. Close to Rachal's heart are the sweet and savory dishes from her home country, the Czech Republic.
“We are so blessed at Auburn Adventist Academy to have Chef Zuzana Rachal in our family,” said Peter Fackenthall, principal. “The food in our cafeteria is so amazing.”
Rachal is in her eighth year as Auburn’s food service director and head chef, and she loves being at Auburn.
“I prayed about being somewhere close to where my children would be in academy,” Rachal said. “God answered that prayer when the academy called me and offered me a job in food service.”
Her responsibilities include creating menus, ordering food, managing a team of cafeteria helpers, cooking for 200, catering special events, fulfilling legendary cake decorating requests and even washing dishes.
When schools were strictly remote in the pandemic, Rachal used her extra time to baked goods. She made artisan breads, sandwich breads, sweet breads, pastries and other delicacies for the Auburn community to pre-purchase and pick up.
“I believe [food service] is all about teamwork,” Rachal said. “When you are making food for 200 people, it’s not about you. I appreciate all of my student and adult workers — a lot of people come together and get it done.”