Faces of NGI: Q&A with Dishwasher, Ana Lugo | Natural Gourmet Institute

Faces of NGI: Q&A with Dishwasher, Ana Lugo

Posted November 9, 2017

The NGI community is made up of faculty, staff, and students from diverse backgrounds. In this series, we’re featuring a staff member or chef instructor to give you a taste of who we are and how we each contribute to creating a quality, health-supportive culinary education.

Ana Lugo came to the United States from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1991. She started at Natural Gourmet Institute in 2001 and has since become a vital member of the NGI family. Ana has a great relationship with all the chef instructors and student chefs and always tries to create a warm and happy environment in the kitchen. Ana’s strength of character and compassion have helped her persevere despite personal hardships. Read on to learn about her story.

What was it like when you first started at NGI in 2001?

I first started as a part-time dishwasher, but I knew I wanted to work my way up to full-time. While working part-time, I worked extra jobs as a masseuse (I received my certificate in the Dominican Republic) and cleaning homes so that I could provide for my children. I loved the environment at NGI and worked very hard there, and after a year I was promoted to a full-time dishwasher position.

What is your favorite memory at NGI?

My favorite memory was when Annemarie would come into the kitchens to say hello, and she would always give us hugs – whether we were chefs, stewards, or dishwashers. Her personality always lit up the room, and as a dishwasher, it was nice to be recognized by the founder of the school, and we could tell she truly cared about us as individuals. I always felt very at home here. Today, NGI continues to demonstrate Annmarie’s philosophy through the care and respect shown for all employees.

What has been the most challenging part of balancing work and raising your children?

It was a challenge at first when I was part-time, juggling several jobs, and had to work night shifts. I would have to find someone to watch my girls and would have to walk home from work in the dark. Now that I work full-time and my children are older, it is much easier on all of us.

How did you get into cooking?

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, I would always cook with my mother. I learned how to cook many traditional Dominican dishes with her. Working at NGI for so many years, I learned basic knife skills including how to properly cut a fish, how to cut a chicken into eight parts, and several different cuts for vegetables. Now, one of my favorite ways to spend time is cooking with my children.

What is your favorite food to cook?

I love to cook traditional dishes from the Dominican Republic, especially arepas and sweet beans, which we usually make during Semana Santa (a celebration of Holy Week in Spanish traditions).