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Credit: Photo: Desiree Rios
The Way We Eat

Meet Nicole Doz, the NYC Department of Sanitation Worker (and Pageant Queen) Who Runs on Cheerios

updated Aug 31, 2020
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Name: Nicole Doz
Location: Staten Island, NY
How many people regularly eat together in your home? 2; Nicole and her fiancé, Mikey
Avoidances: Nicole says she is “a little picky,” but doesn’t avoid anything specific. Her fiancé is keto.

Nicole Doz wears many hats … and crowns! The self-professed @NYBeautyClean is a three-year veteran at the NYC Department of Sanitation, former pageant winner, cake decorator, and brunch-fiend to boot. She’ll be the first to tell you that she loves the look on people’s faces when she tells you that she drives a garbage truck for a living.

When she’s not turning heads and defying expectations at the DOS, Nicole is likely in search of something sweet to eat — preferably for breakfast. We caught up with the pageant-queen-turned-essential-worker to find out her go-to garbage truck snack, her favorite source of carbs, and the talent that won her the coveted Miss Staten Island title.

Credit: Desiree Rios

How did you find yourself working for the NYC Department of Sanitation?
My dad works for the DOS and so does my uncle. It runs in the family! I knew I wanted to work for the city with a job I could support myself with. I also knew I wanted to help people, but maybe not in the traditional way. When I tried it out, I fell in love with it. I’m a big part of keeping the city clean and that’s something that’s very important to me. I love how it’s so shocking for people. I think it’s mostly because I’m a female and come off as very “girly.” People consider it uncharacteristic for someone like myself to do the job that I do. I like that.

I’ve been working here almost three years. Still to this day, most people tell me they’ve never seen a female sanitation worker. But we’re out there! I’m not the only one! When I tell someone where I work, they assume I work in the office. I’m like, “Nope, I drive a garbage truck and a street cleaner.” It’s fun to see the look on people’s faces. I like the barrier-breaking part. I’m not the only woman and I won’t be the last.

Say it louder for the people in the back! What’s a day in the life like?
It’s funny, I don’t have a typical day-to-day because my schedule changes daily. I find out my hours and where I’m working the day before. It makes it a little difficult to schedule my life out in advance. For example, today I might not find out that I’m working starting at midnight until later this afternoon. That’s the most challenging part of the job. Sometimes I work as early as 5 a.m; other times, it’s the overnight shift. Either way, it’s great for traffic!

Has the work changed for you at all since the pandemic?
For the most part, it’s been business as usual, just taking extra precautions. Mostly, we’re realizing how essential we are. We always knew we were an important part of how the city runs, but now we’re taking a step back to see just how big of a difference we make.

Credit: Desiree Rios

What do you eat when you’re out on the job?
My coworkers make fun of me. I bring a peanut butter sandwich with me every single day. I don’t eat anything different. As for dinner, I’m not the biggest cook. My fiancé is the chef in the house (I do the cleanup). He likes to be more adventurous and I’m more plain!

How do you make that work?
He loves steaks, smoking things in our smoker, a lot of meat. And I like … Cheerios. I eat them dry — I love them so much. I’m like a 5-year-old when it comes to food: I love gummy fruit snacks, chips, sweets. I’ve gotten a little better a trying things since I’ve gotten older. But I have to tell him, “Maybe don’t make things so spicy?” He’ll have a more interesting side dish and I’d rather have a plain veggie. He does his keto thing and I do my not-so-keto thing. I stick to my carbs.

Credit: Desiree Rios

What is the best kind of carb in your book?
Brunch. I’m always getting some sort of elaborate dessert item, like pancakes and stuffed waffles. That seems to be my thing.

Have you and your fiancé been eating more or less the same than usual over the past few months?
We’ve definitely been cooking at home a lot more. But we’re in the middle of getting our apartment renovated, so it’s a disaster right now. Because we’ve been working, we try to support our favorite local restaurants because they’re having such a hard time. Project Brunch is one of them and another is Beans and Leaves, a coffee shop that makes elaborate waffles. We actually went there on our first date for coffee.

Credit: Desiree Rios

Who does the grocery shopping?
It’s a joint effort, but I’m doing more of the effort usually. I know what we need. I like to go through the house and see what we need, make the list, clean everything out. He pushes the cart! Obviously Cheerios are always on my list, fresh veggies, potato chips, cookies, and some sort of sweet dessert. I used to work at Carvel and was a cake decorator at Stop & Shop, so that’s probably where my love of sweets comes from.

Credit: Desiree Rios

So many secret talents! Speaking of … I have to ask about your pageant history. How’d you get into them?
I actually wasn’t a childhood beauty pageant person. I always really liked the idea of Miss America as a kid, but I only ever watched it on TV. When I was 18, I researched and found out there was a Miss Staten Island competition. From there you could go on to become Miss New York and then Miss America. Since it was a scholarship pageant, and I was going to college at the time, I decided to try it out.

I competed for five to six years and could not win for the life of me. Once I became a sanitation worker, I sang “I Feel Pretty” in my garbage uniform for the talent competition. I guess it was a hit because I won! Since then I’ve had two different titles: Miss Staten Island in 2018 and Miss Big Apple in 2019. I love how I won by trying something a little unconventional and just being me.

Thanks for sharing, Nicole! Follow her on Instagram.