Imagine cooking more than 400 meals a day in a room too hot to get a suntan in.
That's what the cooks of the Columbia County Detention Center have been doing for years.
"We just can't wait until we move," said Charity Johnson, a 13-year veteran of the kitchen staff. "The old one is small and hot."
As department officials prepare to move into the new detention center, the kitchen staff is getting ready to move into their new, state-of-the-art kitchen.
Officials said because of security reasons they don't want to say exactly when the ladies or inmates are moving. Maj. Wheeler said the move to the new detention center will occur in waves during the remainder of the summer. Sheriff Clay Whittle will hold the ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday.
The staff of five cooks 160 meals for senior citizens each day and a varied number of meals for inmates and employees. On Wednesday, they cooked three meals for each of the 146 inmates and 30 employees.
They often provide meals to local law enforcement officers out in the field and officers throughout the state, Maj. Wheeler said.
"These ladies rise to every occasion," he said. "They've just been great."
In the old kitchen, Johnson said, they had to wait for the electric stoves to heat up. In the new one, the gas stoves will allow them instant heat.
In the old kitchen, the ladies could cook only four pans of cornbread at a time. In the new one, they will be able to heat up 10 pans of their homemade bread.
When you are cooking for hundreds of people, speed is important, Johnson said. On Thursday, the inmates were given turkey and dressing for lunch. Included in that meal were sweet peas, yams, cranberry sauce and cornbread.
They used 120 pounds of turkey, 16 large cans of sweet peas, 22 cans of yams and 50 pounds of corn meal.
"We just work together as a team," said Johnson, whose team includes Hazel Bussey, Lillian Price, Catherine Hastie and Bernice Sweat.
The most obvious and appreciated change will be the space they will have to work with. Their new kitchen triples the size of the old. When there are five cooks and up to four trustys working, Johnson said, it can get a bit cramped.
"We don't have to worry about running into each other," Johnson said.
As she walks out of the new kitchen and back to the old one, Johnson looks at a row of fountain drink dispensers.
In what seemed to be a natural act of kindness, she offers up a cup of soda.
"I wouldn't be able to that the old kitchen," she said.
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