By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - For three hours, about the same duration as their track & field workouts, sprinter Jonielle Smith and hurdler Sashel Brown grilled, rolled and fried like contestants on one of those cooking shows.
The student-athletes, guest chefs at the Wellness Kitchen, prepared dishes from their native Jamaica to serve to their fellow Auburn students.
Jonielle and Sashel picked the menu: brown stew chicken, rice and peas (kidney beans), fried plantains, callaloo (greens), and fried festivals, or Johnny Cakes.
"Everybody who we've cooked for before loves stewed chicken, rice and beans, a common Jamaican dish," said Jonielle.
A junior accounting major who runs the 100 and 200, Jonielle, and Sashel, a senior economics major who competes in the 100 and 400 hurdles, often cook for teammates, but not on this scale.
"It's easy when you're cooking for two or three people, but this was a lot of work," Smith said. "We had to grill the chicken first for it to get the right color, make it steam down. Had to do the rice before Johnny Cakes, which is like fried dough, and plantains. It's a lot.
"A lot of our teammates have had it before at team gatherings, but other people were saying, 'We can't wait.' It's pretty exciting."
Working alongside Wellness Kitchen team members, under the leadership of manager William Walker, gave the student-athletes a deeper admiration for the thousands of meals the staff produces daily.
"I appreciate the chefs more now," Jonielle said. "It's a lot of work and they always get it done on time. I'll pay more attention to them".
After her time in the kitchen, Sashel also emerged with a newfound respect for the Wellness Kitchen workers.
"It was mostly fun, but I can't lie, it was exhausting," Sashel said. "So I really appreciate everything they do behind the scenes.
"I knew they cooked for the whole athletic department and all of the students and guests who eat here, but to be here first-hand, it was so much. I hope the students and student-athletes appreciate what we did.
"I really am nervous because we put in so much effort and work, so I hope everyone enjoys it. I'm excited. All of my teammates have been looking forward to this. My coach, my academic advisor, everybody. I'm just really excited."
Based on the long line of students waiting outside, and the soon-to-be empty plates inside, the student-athletes succeeded in bringing a taste of Jamaica to the Plains.
Auburn students interested in being guests chefs can email menu suggestions to Senior Associate AD David Mines at email@example.com.
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) November 10, 2016
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer