Levonne De Freitas, Manciple

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where you grew up, your first job?

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa to Portuguese immigrants. If I look back and reflect on the fondest memories I have of the city I once called home, it has to be the sight of the picturesque Jacaranda trees amidst the blue skies that paved the way to school every morning in my younger days.

Being of Portuguese heritage, I grew up in a large family and thus, food and wine have always played a big role in my life. I remember as a young girl going to visit my grandparents in Madeira Islands and being fascinated by the process of my grandfather making his own table wine. I recall spending endless hours playing in a basement cellar filled with barrels of tradition from years before.

Needless to say I later went off to university and majored in Hospitality Management. In my final year I got my first job through a placement to gain practical experience located in the Cradle of Human kind. Here I spent six months working in a little boutique hotel, which at the time, boasted a fine dining restaurant that was among the top 10 in South Africa. Through this, long hours and hard work opened up the door to an internship working for the One and Only in the Maldives. This experience fueled my passion for the industry and by this time, I knew that I had made the right career choice. Many moons later, I still can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

So, what exactly is a Manciple? What does a Manciple do?

The English Dictionary defines a Manciple as a person in charge of buying provisions for a college, an Inn Of Court, or a Monastery. However, if I have to describe my current role, I would compare it more to a Front of House Manager. I am responsible for running the day-to-day operations of catering services across the College. This includes coordinating various events ranging from formal halls in term, to conferences out of term. Whether it be a student coming through cafeteria or a couple enjoying their wedding breakfast, the onus is on me to shape a person’s dining experience at Trinity Hall.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is the work-life balance that is otherwise unusual to obtain in my industry. Throughout my career, until I joined Trinity Hall, I missed every Christmas with my family as this is the busiest time of year in restaurants and hotels alike. The fact that we close over this season and I get to fly home and spend this special period with my loved ones is priceless.

What’s the best thing about working with in an academic environment?

The best part about working with students is that by the end of their journey you create somewhat of a bond with a select few. This is evident by the array of cards displayed in the Buttery from various students throughout the years. With this, they leave behind a little something that reminds us of them. In return they take away memories of their favourite cafeteria meal, along with the echo of giggles that lingered the corridors at lunch through their banter with the buttery staff.

How many people work in your department and what do you enjoy about working in this size of team?

In total my department comprises of 11 individuals. The best thing about working in a team of this size is that when its crunch time and the pressure is on, we all pull our strengths together and make magic happen! No matter what walks of life we are all from, we have one thing in common, we all want to succeed in delivering a wonderful experience!

What do you find funny or unusual about working in a Cambridge college?

Change. Change is almost an unspoken language in a Cambridge college! Things are generally done in the same manner that they were conducted decades ago. If one were to consider changing something, there needs to be a compelling argument as to why the change is necessary. I remember a few years back it took almost three months to modify the coffee cups we used at formal dining as it had to go through various stages of approval.

What’s your favourite meal from the cafeteria?

My favourite meal has to be the Sunday roast. That was always a staple in my household and although my feet have left Africa, my heart still remains. There’s something special about those crispy roast potatoes and soulful gravy that are reminiscent of Mum’s cooking!