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“I’ll get it for you, babe”


In the breast pocket of his kitchen whites, chef Joseph Moore—better known as JoJo—carries two instant-read thermometers. It’s his last day of work before retiring, after forty-seven years at Skidmore. “Part of the job nowadays is to take these therms and temp the foods out of the oven and on the line—and wear plastic gloves all the time,” says Moore, who started out in 1959 as a pot-washer in the old campus’s Fathers Hall.

That’s where “I learned all about pots—the different kinds and what they were used for,” he says. “But I knew that wasn’t going to be my sustainer. ‘I’m going into cook staff,’ I told Miss Aikins” (the late dining-service director Jean Aikins). And he did, working his way up from third cook to chef without formal culinary instruction. “I learned all I know right here. You get cut once or twice and you learn not to get cut any more. Someone shows you some better way to put the food up or make it look pretty and it gets easier the more you go over it. Assembling everything smoothly—it makes you feel good in yourself. It’s a beautiful thing.”

In the old “simpler” days, he recalls, “we gave the girls one main entrée. We’d put out ten slices of lamb, say, on a platter at each table, and dishes of mashed potatoes and vegetables. And on Sunday night, we’d go with peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese.” He adds, “When the boys came on campus, in 1973–74, we all talked about how much more they ate!”

What never changed—old campus or new, family or cafeteria style—was the ethos Moore learned from Aikins: Pleasing the students. “Anything the students wanted, he’d try like hell to get it for them,” says Mary Bradley, who worked with Moore for nearly forty years. “A kid would say, ‘JoJo, you have any hamburgers back there?’ If it wasn’t on the day’s menu, he’d say, ‘I’ll get it for you, babe’—everyone was ‘babe’—and he’d make it up for them.”

Fellow cook Bryan Waldron says, “He did more work than anyone. He banged out three, four big jobs at one time, and not easy things, but stuff like scalloped potatoes. He hustled, man.“
While cooking for hundreds is not in Moore’s retirement plans, hustling still is. He’ll keep his longtime night job, cleaning a pediatric-care center. And come fall, he’ll look for volunteer work: “run some Meals on Wheels, carry people to doctor’s appointments—anything I can do to help take a little stress off others.”

That’s nothing new for Moore, who not only fed thousands of students but supervised hundreds more who assisted him in work-study jobs. He was a second father to a lot of them, says cook Brian Burns. “They look him up whenever they come back to campus. At Reunion, everyone always looks for JoJo.” —BAM
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