Carrlena Sivels
Einstein Untold: Unsung Heroes and Unknown Stories

Cheerful Cook Celebrates Co-workers

By on 03/21/2022
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One in an ongoing series

Like most children, Carrlena Sivels loved watching Sesame Street on public television when she was a little girl.

But unlike most kids, she didn’t change the channel when the next show came on PBS: The French Chef with Julia Child. “I couldn’t wait to see it,” she says.

Sivels was transfixed by the iconic Child’s groundbreaking cooking show and played along with her tea set.  

Now Sivels has her own real cooking show, so to speak: she’s a cook at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia and prepares breakfast and lunch for the hundreds of employees and visitors who dine at the hospital cafeteria. She’s been doing it for 12 years.

“I like my job,” she says. “It’s a good place for me.”

Sivels never wavered from her childhood fascination with food. She was the middle child of five girls, and started cooking for her family when she was 12 or 13.

She majored in home economics and attended culinary school after graduating high school in 1998, then worked in food preparation at the city’s sports stadiums, with stops at then Boeing and a local law firm, before arriving at Einstein 12 years ago.

Meals and Celebrations

Sivels starts her day at 5 a.m., preparing breakfast of oatmeal, grits, Cream of Wheat and other morning foods.

“Then I bake cookies for lunch – sometimes people like them for breakfast,” she says.

Although Sivels gets up at 3 a.m. to get ready for work, she admits that she stays up late to watch The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “He perks me up,” she says.

However, Sivels is the one who perks up her coworkers: three of them nominated her for the Keeper of the Dream Award in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was one of four recipients of the award in 2022.

Sivels makes sure that every occasion is celebrated at work with cakes, gifts and candy for her co-workers. She’s always ready to gather co-workers for festivities.

“We have fun here,” she says.  She makes sure of it.

“Carrlena is always celebrating others, whether it’s their birthday or a national holiday – here she comes bearing gifts,” cook Coreen Carter wrote in her nomination. “Carrlena is so kind and compassionate and always puts others before herself.”

“Carrlena is one of the most hard-working people I know,” wrote cook Clarisse Walker. “She is one of the reasons I come to work every day.”

“Every Day Is a Good Day”

Sivels no doubt inspires respect and affection in part because of her upbeat and positive manner. When asked about good days and bad days at work, she says, simply, “Every day is a good day. I’m going to say I don’t have too many bad days.”

Sure, it can get hectic during the lunch hour rush between noon and 1 p.m. “If it’s really busy in the cafeteria, and they’re calling for this or that, sometimes it can be stressful. But you just need to put your head down, think about what you’re doing and get it done.”

Sivels has a daughter who’s 10 years old and a granddaughter by her older daughter who’s 3. She’s already teaching them both their way around the kitchen.

“We didn’t get too far yet,” she says of her granddaughter. “She just wants to eat. I bought her a tea set.”

Maybe someday there will be more cooks in the Sivels family.

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