Barbara’s Place and Davenport Dining Hall are filled with familiar faces, workers and students greet each other as they see each other for the second, third time a day. But a fresh new face can now be spotted, as ULV’s dining halls welcomes the new general manager of Bon Appétit, Heather Podsakoff.
Since April 21, Podsakoff has worked at ULV as general manager, overseeing all aspects of the food service with Bon Appétit, from Barbara’s Place to Davenport and catering services.
Podsakoff earned her bachelor’s degree in communication studies at Biola University but always had an interest in catering and special events. While studying at Biola she worked for an event production company and after graduating she began catering in the hotel industry.
Podsakoff became catering manager for the Hilton Hotel, catering for weddings, quinceañeras, retirement parties and other such events.
In 2007, Podsakoff shifted her catering career in hotels to a college setting and became the director of catering for Bon Appétit at Biola.
“I interviewed and fell in love with the job it was a lot more hands on, creative out of the box, working with food so I took that position,” she said.
Podsakoff worked for six and a half years at Biola, where she had experience catering for more than 600 people.
“When you’re catering you might literally be in someone’s garage and that’s your staging area for a served meal,” Podsakoff said. “So, you really have to think ahead and problem solve on your feet for catering to be able to solve those issues.”
Her communications degree has given her a strong foundation to understand and use good communication skills with her clients and staff, she said.
The position was posted nationally by Bon Appétit company for internal and external candidates, said Bob Rall, district manager for Bon Appétit Management Company.
“Heather was, by far, the most qualified candidate interviewed for the position. Heather’s enthusiasm as well as her experience in the food service industry, with higher education and with Bon Appétit made her a natural for this position.”
“She has the whole breath of experience that we are looking for,” Dean of Student Affairs Loretta Rahmani said. “She adds both perspectives (fine and daily dining) and both of them coming together, giving us different perspectives from how we do things. It’s a pair of fresh eyes.”
As for the dining services on campus Podsakoff said she hopes to bring more students to the dining halls, as well as bring more variety to the menu and a personal customer service.
“I was thinking of brainstorming with the staff to do some things that would change up the monotony breakers, maybe we travel around the world in Davenport,” she said.
Themed dinner nights with different cuisines are one of the ideas. One night Davenport can offer Turkish food, Mexican food or an African themed meal, she said.
“Her main focus will be the student dining and retail programs,” said Rall. The focus will be on listening to student’s concerns and to tailor the program according to them, he said.
Podsakoff has traveled around Europe and countries like Costa Rica, Alaska, Mexico, China and has more than 10 years of food service experience.
“I was a student one time on a board plan so I completely understand what it’s like to go to the same location, everyday for all your meals and when you have things like that it keeps it new, keeps it fresh,” said Podsakoff.
Bernarda Carranza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.