Bostonia is published in print three times a year and updated weekly on the web.
Students may not know her name, but chances are that if they’ve had an omelet at Warren Towers, they know her face. We’re talking about 25-year Dining Services employee Cecilia Lopez. She could rightly be called a campus celebrity, as famous for knowing the orders of her regulars as she is for her delicious omelets. She even has her own Facebook meme.
While her shift technically starts each day at 5 am, Lopez likes to arrive at work 30 minutes early to change clothes and arrange her hair. She boils water for the oatmeal and then begins stocking the omelet station with onions, tomatoes, peppers, ham, and more. “Everything has to be perfect by 7 am,” she says through a translator (her first language is Spanish).
She greets each customer, always asking first how they are, then how they want their omelet prepared. Lopez has a college-age daughter and takes a genuine interest in the students, serving as a kind of mother figure, commiserating with them if they are sick or have pulled an all-nighter. “When I see a student that is very tired, I try to encourage them,” she says.
Born in El Salvador, Lopez came to the United States at the age of 19, arriving in Houston, Tex. “At that time the revolution and guerrillas were emerging in my country,” she says, “and they were kidnapping young women my age, so my mother was very worried.”
In 1992, she moved up to Boston and started working at BU part time. Her first job was as a dining hall custodian. At the time, she says, she didn’t know much English. One day, a coworker asked if she would like to serve food, and from there, she went on to work the grill and prepare burritos before becoming an omelet chef 15 years ago. By her own estimate, a typical morning sees her making more than 300 omelets.
When the end of her shift approaches, Lopez tidies her station for the next person using it. Then she starts chopping and preparing ingredients for the following day. “That’s my routine,” she says.
When she isn’t working, she loves to watch the Discovery Network and cook for her daughter, but only on weekends. One of her specialties is the traditional Salvadorean dish pupusa, a corn tortilla stuffed with a savory filling. Other favorite dishes include tamales, enchiladas, and soup. Eggs are almost never on the menu.
“I don’t buy any eggs because I see too many eggs here,” Lopez says.
Carlos Soler contributed reporting to this article.