I Am Miami

Talking National Nutrition Month with Chef Ginny Thiell

March is National Nutrition Month, which is a nutrition education and information campaign, focusing on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

So, we reached out to some of our talented and experienced chefs and asked them to share their advice for making healthy food choices this month and beyond. Today’s chef is Chef Ginny Thiell.

Chef Ginny Thiell currently works as an Executive Chef for Miami University Catering. Chef Thiell is a Miami grad with a wide range of experience at different restaurants in the Cincinnati area, including experience as a chef at a vegan restaurant.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself and your background in dining.

I’m a Miami grad who has had a passion for cooking ever since I can remember. After leaving Oxford, many years ago, I worked my way up through several restaurants in Cincinnati, eventually taking the challenging position of Chef at a vegan restaurant in Clifton. Giving up so many cornerstones of traditional cookery – butter, cream, animal proteins – encouraged a lot of out-of-the box thinking in creating nutritious and tasty fare.

Q: Tell me what you do here at Miami, the different tasks you are responsible for and what role you play in our dining services as a whole.

I returned to Miami and, after several interesting and rewarding job positions, I am currently Executive Chef for Miami Catering. Our kitchen is involved in events that vary from picnics to working lunches to weddings.

Q: The theme for National Nutrition Month this year is “Put Your Best Fork Forward” to emphasize that each of us holds the tool to make healthier food choices. What does this theme mean to you and in what ways do you believe people/students can make healthy changes to their diets during National Nutrition Month?

“Put Your Best Fork Forward” means, to me, moderation and an awareness of what we eat. I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years so I’m a big fan of a plant-based diet. This doesn’t mean a vegan/vegetarian diet is for everyone, but less animal products and more veggies, fruits and grains are a great foundation for any diet. Good nutrition is often perceived as boring and rather puritanical, but it’s really just choosing the best fuel for your body so you can be on top of your game.

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Student Employee Spotlight: Gill Burkhardt

Gill Burkhardt is a sophomore from Buffalo, New York. She is studying environmental earth science. For fun, she participates in Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, Green Oxford and Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority. Gill also works at Western Dining Commons as a part of Miami University’s dining services. We sat down with her to get to know the girl behind the Miami Dining hat.

Q: If you could be any kitchen utensil, which kitchen utensil would you be?

A: A fork, I love pasta so much so I would want to be a fork so I could eat it all day.

Q: If your personality was a texture, which texture would it be?

A: Smoothly polished wood.

Q: What is the coolest place you’ve been?

A: I recently went to Sedona, AZ. It has some AMAZING geology (which I love) and it’s a really interesting place that is much different from any other U.S. city I’ve visited.

Q: What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

A: For Secret Santa, I once received an X-Files mug from my friend. It was actually really great and I’ve used it almost every day since then.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?

A: I would love to be a park ranger.

Q: What is your favorite place to eat on campus?

A: Western Dining Commons is my favorite place to eat because they change up the options every day!

Q: What would you want to be famous for?

A: I want to be famous for doing nothing … like just have all the money and popularity but not actually have to do work.

Q: If your life was a book, what would be the title?

A: “What to Heck”

Q: Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?

A: 1990’s Sarah Michelle Geller.

Q: What is your go-to fun fact?

A: Pluto has an ocean under its surface.

Q: What is your go-to joke?

A: Any pepe meme.

Q: To where do you most want to travel?

A: All over Europe.

Q: What one meal would you eat for the rest of your life?

A: Pizza.

Q: When are you happiest?

A: When I’m at home in the summer.

Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

A: Any compliment about my personality.

Q: If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life what song would it be?

A: “Salad Days” by Mac Demarco.

Q: What is your spirit animal?

A: An otter.

Q: What are you currently binge-watching?

A: Twin Peaks (again).

Q: If you could be anyone dead or alive for one day who would you be?

A: I would want to be Snoop Dogg.

Q: What would your band be named?

A: The Flaming Hot Cheetos.

Interested in joining our team? Apply for a job in dining services today at miamioh.hiretouch.com! We have a number of exciting opportunities available across campus!

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On the Road: Rooted Grounds Coffee Company

The first thing that jumped out upon arrival at Rooted Grounds Coffee Company, located in West Chester, was a simple sign that read, “Behind every successful person is a substantial amount of coffee.”

For many, particularly in college, those words couldn’t ring more true. Coffee is an important ingredient in the college scene and, as such, requires the utmost care and attention.

So, last week, Miami University dining services, representatives from the Miami University Associated Student Government and a social media person made the 50-minute drive to Rooted Grounds Coffee Co. to talk coffee, learn about the roasting process and begin development on an exclusive Miami coffee blend.

Rooted Grounds has deep roots to the love and honor of Miami University. Founded in 2016 by Miami Mergers David and Patsy Knopf, Rooted Grounds sets out to make locally roasted, fresh, small batch craft coffee available beyond the coffee shop setting.

Their dedication to their craft was put on display during our visit. Working with high-quality ingredients and a wealth of knowledge at their disposal, Rooted Grounds walked us through a sampling. As a group, we ranked a handful of coffees, each of which offering unique flavor profiles.

While Rooted Grounds took the results and set up a second round of sampling, we were taken around the facility where we learned about the roasting process and about the science that goes into each step of production.

We roasted our own coffee beans, left them to cool and went back to sample three blends, made using our results from earlier. As we ranked our new favorites, the Rooted Grounds team explained the nuances of the coffee beans we tasted. We learned more about Brazilian, Sumatran, Guatemalan and Colombian coffee varieties and how factors like soil, climate, geography, harvesting methods, and more impact flavor. Meanwhile, our rankings from the second sampling were tallied.

We discussed the results, having chosen our favorite blend of the three, before returning to the coffee beans we roasted, to get a hands-on look at the result of our demonstration. Shortly after that, we returned to Oxford, plenty caffeinated.

The entire experience was interesting and informative. We made the trip, not to merely satisfy our own curiosity, but to learn more about a local business whose coffee is expected to be served at various campus locations and to ensure that our guests receive the very best coffee!

While we would love to share our winning blend, we think it best to leave the final say to our patrons, so we are planning a sampling where Miami will choose the Rooted Grounds Miami blend! Keep tabs on our social media so you don’t miss out on that or any other information relating to our dining services and Rooted Grounds Coffee Co.!

Like Rooted Grounds Coffee Co. on Facebook and check out photos from our visit here!

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Staff Spotlight: Scott Haas

Every work day starts the same way for Scott Haas. He arrives at 6:45 AM and before anything else, he makes his rounds to his staff at Martin Dining Hall and Scoreboard Market.

“The first thing I do in the morning, is meet and greet all of the employees. I go around and say good morning to everybody, even before I take my coat off,” said Haas with a smile. “I don’t drink coffee, but I make a point to greet everybody before doing anything else.”

While Haas’ morning routine may seem like a small part of his day, it goes a long way. Haas wants his staff to feel comfortable coming to him for assistance and that starts by building a solid working relationship with each employee.

“If something goes wrong or someone needs help getting things ready, I want them to feel comfortable asking for help,” said Haas. “I tell them that all the time. If you need help, let me know, and I’ll help.”

Haas grew up in the small town of Bath, Indiana. Born and raised on a farm, Haas always thought he would be a farmer.

“I always wanted a farm, but they don’t make extra farm ground. What’s there is there,” said Haas with a chuckle. “It was too expensive to buy and too expensive to rent, so I started looking into food service.”

As a teenager, Haas took a job at a fast food place where he would use his free time there to mix different dishes, prompting his initial interest in food service. He attended culinary school, becoming a certified chef, and then took an assistant manager job at a family-owned cafeteria in Richmond, Indiana where he worked for 10 years, prior to his time at Miami.

Haas started at Miami in 1990 as an assistant manager at Erickson Dining Hall where he worked for two years. Over the last 26 years, Haas has worked in concessions, vending and served as the manager of the warehouse and dock operations, among other titles. It wasn’t until last summer that Haas took his current role at Martin.

“I was in dining food service for two years, and then I wasn’t back in the dining hall until I came back this year,” said Haas. “I was a general manager in the food court at Shriver Center when it opened and started accepting meal plans. I was involved in opening the first convenience store on campus and helped open and build concessions, more or less, from the ground up. I’ve done a lot of things during my time here.”

Now, Haas oversees Martin Dining Hall and Scoreboard Market where he handles food ordering, makes schedules, ensures staff are where they need to be and keeps the operation running smoothly. Much in the same way he values communication with his staff, Haas checks in with guests multiple times throughout the day to ensure everything is going well, further fostering open communication.

“Every morning, if I see them, I’ll greet them and ask how they’re doing. Whether I’m working at the cash register or not, I’ll go out in the dining room several times throughout the meal just to see how things are going,” said Haas. “It’s important to touch base. If students have an issue, I hope they would tell me or one of my assistants. I hope they feel they can come to us with feedback.”

Haas is easy-going but works hard to provide the very best service for his guests. He makes an effort to build working relationships with his staff and with students to ensure that Martin Dining Hall and Scoreboard Market operate smoothly. Haas loves getting to know people through these means, but he is still happiest when guests are happy with their meals.

“I’m happiest when I know the food is out and the food tastes great, looks great and, most importantly, when students like it. That’s probably when I’m the happiest at work. When the students are eating the food and when they are enjoying it.”

The Hard Questions

Favorite dish to prepare? To eat?

Prepare – I haven’t done it for a while, but I like making lasagna at home.

Eat – A good steak.

What’s something that’s on your bucket list?

I want to visit every state eventually. I’ve been to quite a few and some of them you go to over and over, but eventually, I want to be able to visit every state, whether we drive or fly, and visit some different countries.

What is the most important thing you have learned in the last five years?

You have to be able to adapt to changes. In the last five years, our department has changed. My family has changed. I have had two kids get married, and in the last six months, they’ve each had a child. One grandchild will be six months next week and one was a week old yesterday, so I think you’ve got to adapt to change, whether it’s at work or whether it’s with family life. There are always things that are going to change and if you can’t adapt and make changes, you’re not going to make it.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I would say a steak of some kind. A baked sweet potato. Creamed spinach with bacon. Tossed salad. A roll and then some kind of fruit pie.

When are you happiest?

I’m the happiest when I’m just relaxing. Overall, I’m happiest with how well my kids have done. I was the first child in my family to go to college and now all my kids have gone to college. They’re all doing very well.

What kitchen appliance are you and why?

I’d say a gas grill because I’ve done so much on a gas grill whether it be baking, or frying, or grilling, or roasting. I’ve fixed just about anything. A pineapple upside down cake on the grill, I’ve baked cookies, I’ve made pancakes, I’ve just done everything you can do.

What’s one thing people may not know about you?

I actually played a pickup basketball game with Larry Bird. I went to school in the town he was born and raised in, French Lick, Indiana. It was the spring before he got famous in the NCAA tournament and me and some of my friends from college went to one of the town parks to play some basketball. There were three people at one basket, and then five of us at our end, and they came over and said, “Hey, do you guys want to play a game?” We said, “Sure.” We asked how they wanted to divide it up, and they said, “Why don’t you five play us three.” We knew this guy was big. We started playing and, of course, it was more or less like one against five. He was amazing. Then, the following March, we’re sitting in our rooms watching the NCAA tournament and we thought he looked familiar. Apparently he was on spring break at the time we were playing. It was weird knowing you played against somebody like that.

Cat or dog? Definitely dog, if I had one.

Cake or pie? Pie.

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