What motivated you to choose this career?
My degree is in Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management. From my early teens, I worked in restaurants, and I’d planned to own one someday. But by 1990, I was getting a little tired of working late nights, weekends and holidays. My husband’s mother enjoyed her job as head cook at a Pittsburgh high school. So, when I learned the management company she worked for was recruiting foodservice directors, I applied.
I quickly grew excited about ensuring students always have great school cafeteria experiences and amazing meals. My favorite part of the job is crushing the stereotype that school food is bad!
I joined SNA back in 1993 when I first started at State College. A supervisor in one school was chapter president, and her passion and commitment for the Association was infectious. I’ve been involved ever since and am currently president of SNA of Pennsylvania.
Where is your happy place?
My large family regularly gathers at our farm in south-central Pennsylvania, and when I’m sitting by a bonfire, looking at the lightning bugs in the orchard, I can feel my blood pressure drop and my muscles relax. That is my happy place.
What would be the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?
I’d make some upgrades to the farm. When my 12 siblings, their spouses and our children all show up for a family event like our annual Farmcation, there is not enough room! So, I’d make improvements to the 200-year-old house, plus add a new building with a few dozen bedrooms, a huge kitchen and a dining hall to fit us all. Then, I’d throw a party to celebrate my good luck!
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“If there’s room in the heart, there’s room in the car.” My dad adapted the famous quote about heart and home whenever he would pack eight of us kids into his hatchback and drive to the end of the lane to catch the school bus. What I took from that is sometimes life is uncomfortable, but kindness and love can make difficult circumstances better!
If you could invite anyone, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would be on your guest list?
My husband and I have this conversation all the time! The list changes a lot, but one person who is always invited is Tim Russert, the longtime host of “Meet the Press,” who died in 2008. He asked guests compelling questions that shed light on complicated issues. He was insistent on answers without being rude or unkind. He just seemed to be a nice guy who loved his dad, was proud of his son and was an unabashed Buffalo Bills fan!
Name three foods you could happily subsist on if marooned on a desert island with a lifetime supply.
My choices do not model healthy eating habits, but I’d be pretty happy eating hot dogs, spaghetti and peanut butter every day, if that was all I had available.
What was your best vacation and what’s still on the bucket list?
Italy and its fabulous food in 2019 was a great fit for my family. One highlight was a cooking class at a farm outside of Florence where we made homemade pasta, focaccia and apple torta—and were told to “sprinkle salt like a blessing!” Next summer, my husband and I plan to take several weeks to drive to the national conference in Denver, stopping anytime something catches our interest. Our country is so diverse and beautiful, and there are so many places we need to explore.