Serving you: County jail cook

With two of the three jail cooks off on a recent day at work, Teresa Wood was flying solo when it came to fixing lunch and dinner for the nearly 100 inmates and staff at the Washington County Jail. But after more than three years there, Wood doesn’t bat an eye at the prospect of fixing 100 pizza burgers and sides in less than an hour.

“It’s nothing once you get your routine,” she said.

The spic and span jail kitchen almost sparkles, and it’s equipped with super-sized versions of everything a cook could want, she said.

That is a good thing, too, since Wood is literally locked inside it for most of the day.

“Control has to buzz me out,” she said with a laugh.

As she shows off the gleaming kitchen appliances -the dishwasher being her favorite -it is obvious that if Wood has to be locked anywhere, the spacious kitchen would be at the top of the list.

While all the fancy cook’s tools are fun, the best part of the job is that every day at work brings a new flavor, she said.

Question: How did you come to start working for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office?

Answer: I worked at Warren’s IGA at the time and Linda Moore, who is also a cook here, used to work at Warren’s and we kind of knew each other. She called me one day and wanted to know if I’d be interested and I said ‘Yes.’

Q: Have you always liked to cook?

A: Oh yeah. I’ve always been into baking and cooking. A friend and I, we used to bake and sell things during the Fall Foliage Tour out on Ohio 26.

Q: What sort of things do you like to cook at home?

A: I like to make baked steak. Here we don’t have all the seasonings like fresh onions because some people might be allergic to onions. But I like to make all sorts of things -homemade pizza, cakes, cookies. I love making cream pies.

Q: What kinds of meals do you prepare here?

A: (Grabs a folder full of laminated meal plans) Well, this is the menu. Our nutritionist puts it all together and every day it adds up to 2,200 calories. It’s a two-week plan. So every two weeks it repeats. Tonight for example, we’re having hamburger and gravy over mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. We make scalloped potatoes and ham. We make our own biscuits. They are hot, hot meals. Even for lunch. For example, for a Monday lunch we’ll do like a McRib with coleslaw. That’s a favorite.

Q: Are there any special considerations?

A: Well we don’t recognize vegetarians. You’ve got to basically have an allergy for something to change. There are special meals for diabetics. When inmates are booked they have to tell what their allergies are right away and then we get a list. For example, right now there are two who can’t have pork.

Q: What is something people might not know about your job?

A: I don’t think people realize that it’s not like a bakery or a deli where you can just walk in and you can walk out. When you walk in here, it’s locked. It’s a secured area. The control room has to unlock it.

Q: What is your favorite part about your job?

A: I’d been a secretary when I first graduated. That is boring to me. Here it is different every day. We have inmates that help me serve and do all the dishes. And they always have a different story. They want to talk to you about a phone call they got or seeing a family member. We just listen. Plus I work with good people. I couldn’t ask for better.

Jasmine Rogers conducted this interview.