Search Blackfriars

2 July 2020

Farewell Mrs Markota

After 29 years as Blackfriars’ dedicated Canteen Manager, Mrs Frances Markota has decided to…

After 29 years as Blackfriars’ dedicated Canteen Manager, Mrs Frances Markota has decided to retire, and she had her final day this week. Well, her last official day at least – we’re sure she’ll always return as a beloved part of our school community.

To show appreciation from the student body, Mrs Holland’s Year 4 class delivered a beautiful package of handmade cards for Mrs Markota, to show appreciation for all the snacks, lunch orders and warm smiles they received in the canteen each day.

Staff held a farewell afternoon tea for Frances on Tuesday afternoon, with Mr Jon Harmer (who has borne witness to all of Frances’ 29 years at Blacks) delivering a very fitting speech to mark the occasion. Here is an excerpt from Mr Harmer’s tribute to Mrs Markota…

Mrs Markota pictured in the Blackfriars staffroom with her husband John, and Mr Jon Harmer delivering her farewell speech.

It was Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who said that,’An army marches on its stomach.’

In the 29 years that Frances has been in charge of the Blackfriars tuckshop many thousands of students, as proud members of the Blackfriars army, have marched into class after recess and lunch, thankful for the tasty offerings provided by our tuckshop. If a healthy body is a healthy mind, then Frances and her trusty band of Lieutenants have, for the best part of three decades, not only contributed to the physical needs of our students but also to their academic performance.

With military precision, Frances’ battle plans were developed early in the day. For many years this involved the recruitment and induction of parent volunteers and the ordering of provisions for the boys and of course the staff. A key aspect of the battle plans was what food to provide the troops. Frances has needed to be aware of the students’ ever-changing needs not only around good nutrition but also around food hygiene, dietary needs and an ever increasing multitude of food allergies.

Of course, despite Frances’ best laid plans there have been the odd distractions like staff grazing in the tuck shop, late lunch orders, changes to bell times, unannounced school excursions and of course school fundraisers – like those pesky Water Polo BBQs held on Thursdays at lunch for 14 years straight. Of course, while a variety of groups in our community are beneficiaries of the excellent service in the tuckshop, it’s the student cohort first and foremost that Frances and her team has catered for over her 29 year tenure.

Frances, I did reach out to an old scholar quite well known to you to pass on a special message on behalf of students past and present. Who better than graduate of 2003 and 2011 MasterChef Australia runner-up, Michael Weldon. Michael, whose mum Genevieve was also a tuckshop volunteer, is currently working as Development & Innovation Chef for Coles in Melbourne and features daily on Channel 10’s Farm to Fork cooking show. 

From Michael “ When I think of you Mrs Markota, I have some very fond and delicious memories. It is not stretching the truth to say that you were actually my first boss; in fact, I’ll go as far as saying my first head chef! Like many Blackfriars students, I was one of the lucky ones who got to work in the tuckshop once a week throughout Year 11. Not only was it my first job but it was first experience working with food in a kitchen – and who knows, perhaps that also planted the seed for my future career. It definitely helped grow my love of food and eating because payment for a day’s work was always whatever hot food was left in the pie warmer at the end of lunch. Those days in the kitchen definitely helped me learn a bit about portion control when serving food, but on that I have confession to make… I do remember on a couple of occasions – but only a couple – telling customers there were no sausage rolls left, when in fact there was one sneaky little one, hiding in the back corner of the warmer, waiting for the shop to close so I could have it for lunch. I can assure you Mrs Markota, that I was the ONLY student employee to do this though!

One thing I fondly remember about being a regular diner at the BPS tuckshop was the smile I’d get from you, every time I would order. I didn’t fully appreciated it at the time, but to run the tuckshop, serving that many students, that much food, managing that many volunteer parents, dealing with student and employees – all with a warm welcoming smile – is an incredible effort and says so much about the person you are !

Mrs Markota, on behalf of all of the students who have dined at the BPS tuckshop over the last 29 years, I would like to thank you for feeding us all so well, so quickly and with such care. And of course, thank you for your smile ! Thank you so very, very much. Michael.

In closing, Frances would be the first to acknowledge the contribution of hundreds of mums and dads who have volunteered in the tuckshop and the valued support of both Doris for the past 12 years and of course Veronica for the past 19. However, Blackfriars must also thank Frances; not only for her dedicated attention to the needs of both students and staff, but also for the sense of community she has created and nurtured among the many parents who have supported her as tuckshop volunteers over the years. 

Our army does march on its stomach to some degree, but moreso the tuckshop has become very much the “hub” of our school community. Its very existence has been due to the untiring efforts of Frances and her many, many supporters over many, many years. Thank you Frances.