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Behind the Scenes with Ohio State dining heroes

For college students, giving up on a dream for a new direction can be terrifying. However, local alumnae Kathie Serif and Abby Hertzfeld have proved to be prime examples of the unlimited opportunities offered by Ohio State.

“I can’t say I dreamt about working in collegiate dining, but I’ve been afforded a lot of opportunities here I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else,” said Hertzfeld, associate director of dining operations. “The best perk of working for the university is staying in touch with the students, providing mentorship, and talking to them about options outside of what they dream about doing one day.”

Kathie Serif is the associate director that oversees Campus Grinds, all coffee cafes, Ohio Union restaurants and University Catering operations. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Serif is the associate director that oversees Campus Grinds, all coffee cafes, Ohio Union restaurants and University Catering operations. From restaurant rollouts to menu development to new employee training, Serif is constantly working in rapidly changing environments.

Hertzfeld is the associate director of operations, which means she guides employee development for dining services, from recruitment to training to evaluation and labor relations.

In addition to working in dining services, she’s a liaison with the College of Education and Human Ecology, where she builds positive working relationships and programs that maintain a smooth experience for all.

Although it can be unusual for women to hold such high positions in the dining industry, Serif and Hertzfeld reassure neither pay much attention to it, nor use it as an excuse.

“I’ve always been in that minority and it was a ‘man’s world’ when I first started off, but I’ve been fortunate enough to work for really great companies and really great people,” Serif said. “I never felt like I couldn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve, and I may have worked harder, but I had something to prove to myself – I always tried to make sure I was the best when that next position came up.”

Serif and Hertzfeld work down the hall from each other, and join forces on a big-picture level to help manage dining operations throughout campus.

“We collaborate on a lot of things,” Serif said. “Even though we oversee different aspects, the job itself is the same and we have the same goals as far as food cost, hiring, training, and staffing.”

In addition to their own responsibilities, Serif and Hertzfeld also have their hands in food conservation and sustainability as well.

“I’ve recently taken on our waste management side of things as far as how can we reduce our waste,” Serif said. “I want to see how can we make sure we’re being good stewards of the food that we serve, and what we do with what’s left over so we don’t waste food.”

Abby Hertzfeld is the associate director of operations, meaning she guides employee development for dining services. In addition, she’s a liaison with the Department of Education and Human Ecology. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Hertzfeld said she has been working on the MyCup program, which works to give all students in residence halls personalized, reusable and sustainable water bottles when they move in –– equating to more than 15,000 cups each year.

After graduating from Ohio State with a degree in restaurant management, Serif garnered more than 25 years’ experience in full-service dining before joining dining services in 2010.

“I love the restaurant business, I love food, I love the way restaurants are run and I love the environment,” Serif said. “When I came back [to Ohio State], I was looking for what else I could do that’s different…the food can change, but what you do is the same.”

Hertzfeld recently celebrated her 20th year at Ohio State in dining services as a full-time employee, after getting her start as a part-time student employee.

“I started off as a student where I worked for dining for four years,” Hertzfeld said. “Having a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Ohio State is *nice because I sit on the hospitality management advisory board here on campus as an alumni and dining representative.”

As the unsung heroes behind the driving force of all restaurants and dining options on campus, Hertzfeld and Serif just want students to know how much time and care is put into keeping their offerings fresh, innovative and interesting.

“There’s nothing glamorous about food service, but it’s fun and I love seeing the satisfaction of the students,” Hertzfeld said. “Trust me, this is not the food service I got when I was a freshman…to see where dining has gone from then to now is really amazing.”

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