Feeding Grinnell Mutual

Feeding Grinnell Mutual

It’s before lunch behind the counter of Grinnell Mutual’s home office kitchen. Nine women, each dressed in a simple striped black buttoned shirt have something to do: washing carrots or grapes, cooking ground beef or slicing ham, emptying a load of dishes. There’s the din of spoons hitting countertops and plates being stacked. Denise Thomazin, the food services supervisor, has her office door open, but she’s not just sitting — she moves from one corner of the room, to the kitchen, keeping up with her staff. It feels like home: people making food the real way.

 “We try to do everything from scratch,” explains Denise.

The conviction of sticking to scratch may pleasantly surprise some customers because of the quantity of food it takes to feed 600 home office Grinnell Mutual employees every day. The cafeteria serves breakfast, opens again for a mid-morning snack, and then serves lunch.

At grandmother’s house

Since she was young, Denise has been cooking. “My mom worked afternoons a lot,” she explains. “She would have me help her get dinner ready.”

But her love for cooking matured at her grandmother’s house. “She taught me how to can tomatoes. She taught me how to make jelly. I had a favorite cookie — chocolate crinkle — that she eventually taught me how to make.

“And,” she added, “she made everything from scratch.”

After high school, Denise worked at several different restaurants, but had no plans to stay in the business.

“To be honest, I just didn’t see myself in food service,” she shares. She began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at a nursing home until she got injured transferring a patient. That injury prevented her from performing her job duties as a CNA, so — ironically — she was moved to the nursing home’s kitchen, but decided to leave the nursing home.

To Grinnell Mutual

In April of 2006, Denise started working in Grinnell Mutual’s kitchen. “I’d always heard it was a great company to work for. I had never had just a Monday through Friday job. That was a big plus, especially with having kids at home. In any other food service job, you were never really off.”

However, Denise was living 40 miles away from Grinnell and had young children. So, in 2012, she decided to accept a job just 7 miles away from home. “As a single parent,” she says, “it’s always tough balancing everything with kids and work.”

But even with the convenience of working closer to home, Denise missed out on a lot of her kids’ events. “I was always told, ‘Someday you’re going to kick yourself for leaving.’”

She didn’t need to kick herself for long. In 2014, a Grinnell Mutual employee gave her a call, asking her to come back.

 “I was just really glad that I got the chance to come back,” she says. Today, she is the food services supervisor.

Finding her niche

After years of working in the food service industry, Denise can say this with confidence: “I don’t really know anything that I don’t like about food service.” One of her favorite parts of the job is creating the menus, exploring new and old recipes.

As it turns out, being a CNA and working in food service are not so different — both are a way of taking care of people.

She sums up her experience as the food service supervisor at Grinnell Mutual this way: “I like cooking, period. I like making people happy.”

Join our top workplace

Employees like Denise are one of the many reasons Grinnell Mutual is a top workplace. Ready to start your own Grinnell Mutual journey? Check out our career opportunities and our rich benefits package.


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