"After five days in that hospital during Hurricane Katrina as the Assistant Director, I had enough! I moved my family back to Illinois and the rest is history!” Gail Kirkwood, the Assistant Director of Campus Dining A Taste of Excellence Catering and Conferencing, moved from Louisiana back to Illinois after experiencing Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2005. Gail was the Assistant Director at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans for 23 years. Before moving to Louisiana in 1978, she worked for Campus Dining Services as a manager after completing her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutrition from Illinois State University. During this time, she was asked to make cow tongue salad and fried brains for one of her classes as an undergraduate. She explained this was the most exotic thing she had ever eaten and tasted “yucky!” When Gail is not on campus, she enjoys spending time with her family and cooking for her two children.
When working in a catering department, having an understanding of floral arrangements, cake decorations, and color schemes is highly recommended. Lori Hemmer has an extensive working background in all of the above categories. She was the Supervisor for Gracious Affairs, an upscale catering bistro in Bloomington, Illinois, for 5 years; a floral designer for 3 years; and a cake decorator for 15 plus years. Lori uses these skills daily in her position as a Manager for A Taste of Excellence Catering. Since 2007, Lori has worked for Illinois State University Campus Dining Services and says that she loves her job. “What I enjoy most about working with the students here at Illinois State is how they are all different in some way. I enjoy getting to know the staff and watching them grow in catering life and in their own personal life … then they graduate.” She keeps busy here and at home but always makes time for her family. Lori spends her free time with her daughters and, during the summer, she enjoys going to her daughter’s softball games.
Until her youngest was in fifth grade, Kimberly Ummel was a full-time mom. Once that time hit, she started working for Canteen Food and Vending as an office assistant. During this time, she was also selling Pampered Chef cooking products and did so for eight years. In 1997, Kim began working for Illinois State University Campus Dining Services as a Secretary for the Director of Campus Dining. She is now the Manager for A Taste of Excellence Catering department and says that “the challenges of putting together an event from beginning to end” is her favorite part of working for Illinois State University. Working for a catering department offers many opportunities to experience different kinds of food and develop an understanding of how events are decorated. Wedding and decorating shows are a great way to look at and create new ideas for events, and Kim likes to spend some of her free time at these shows and flipping through magazines for new decorating ideas. When she isn’t thinking about catering or decorating, Kim can be found traveling to Indiana to visit her adult children.