The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

SJU Food Workers

Reza Moreno, Features Editor

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On-campus dining is such a big part of what makes a university, especially St. John’s University. But there’s one part of campus dining that doesn’t always get enough attention: the workers.

Students really only see the people who work in SJU’s dining locations during their meals when they’re busy doing their jobs among all of the hungry students. But do we actually know who they are, anything about their lives or how they got their position at St. John’s?

The food workers at St. John’s are one of the important groups of staff members on campus. They are the ones who help put food in students’ stomachs after those stressful day of classes.

One of those people in particular is Executive Chef, Kelly Heefner.

Heefner grew up on Long Island and as a kid he and his dad would always cook together. Heefner is a French Culinary Institute graduate, and he now oversees all of the menus for all the dining services locations and catering on campus.

 He has worked at a lot of restaurants on Long Island before he went corporate.

Some well known restaurants Heefner worked at on Long Island include Milleridge Inn in Jericho and the George Washington Manor, which recently changed their name. He also worked at many well known restaurants back in the 1990s.

Some other places he worked at include Morgan Stanley, Stony Brook University and Wagner College.

“Catering is my favorite just because all the menus are customized where we don’t have to look at that recipe and we have some freedom to really create,” Heefner said.

“When I was a kid my father taught me what to do, we started off with breakfast then moved it to lunch,” Heefner said.

At the age of 14 he would admire the workers at Margo Luncheonette, a once busy food spot near him that is no loner open. Then one day, two years later, at the age of 16 he got his first job there.

“I noticed them flipping burgers, and back then I was putting together papers, like the New York Times,” Heefner said. “I was always watching them and they liked me so they asked, ‘how would you like to work behind the line one day’ and I got all excited.”

“When I turned 16, I was able to flip burgers and eggs and had a great time,” he said.

Heefner has had a passion for food since day one and now brings that energy to St. John’s. His role here is to look over everyone that works at the dining services and prepares the menus a month in advance. He also works on the catering for the school with Chartwells.

Under Heefner, there are several people who work in the food venues on campus. Veronica “Ronnie” Durante is one of them.

 A mother of two, Durante has worked as a cashier at the Burger King in Marillac Hall since 2005. She is from Manhattan and currently lives in Hells Kitchen.

Durante worked with American Broadcasting Companies for years before she had her two daughters, so she then stopped working to be a mother full-time. After her youngest left for college, she started a part time job at Burger King on campus as a cashier.

“I knew nothing about the food business until I got here,” Durante said.

It was during her college years when she first got into media. She worked for ABC as a supervisor for many years before she became a mother. While at ABC she traveled and was able to attend conventions.

“It was wonderful, until I had my girls,” Durante said.

Her girls are her life, she said, which is obvious by the way she describes their accomplishments.

Durante loves being able to interact with the students, especially when she is behind the cash register.

“We’re friendly, we want to welcome them,” she said.

When she is not working at Burger King, she can also be seen volunteering for animal rescue groups, which is one of her passions.

These two St. John’s food workers give so much of their time and passion to help make our campus a better place.

They are just a few of the other amazing women and men who give so much of their time to St. John’s. We never know the passions behind the people we interact on a day to day life here on campus. But if you just take the time, you’ll be surprised what you find out.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University
SJU Food Workers