Former Ohio State women’s rowing coach Bethia Woolf turned her passion for an OSU class project into three blogs and local food touring business, Columbus Food Adventures.
During her three-year career as a rowing coach, Woolf enrolled in a geography course, not because it was a requirement, but because she found the professor, Kendra McSweeney, interesting.
“I took the course because I thought she was cool, down to earth and fun, but the kind of person who you could tell was really smart,” Woolf said. “Really the whole business I have now came from a class I took at Ohio State.”
Woolf, originally from London, England, has an American mother and an English father. She spent summers in America and has memories of the fresh produce her grandfather would grow in the states — tomatoes, bushels of peaches, and sweet corn — which are difficult to find in London, she said.
Although she has always loved food, Woolf’s position as OSU women’s rowing coach was one of the many jobs she decided to test before finding career bliss as a blogger and Columbus foodie. She recounted her résumé with a smirk: She worked in a bank before attending graduate school at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, to become a teacher and rowing coach. After two years as a high school teacher, she decided she hated it, so she moved to Canada, where she trained to be a pilates fitness instructor. Bored with pilates, Woolf moved to Northampton, Mass., to attend Smith College where she coached rowing.
Woolf created her first blog, Hungry Woolf, as a way to keep in touch with her family and friends across the pond.
“I started doing it thinking it was a way to connect with people far away,” Woolf said. “But actually it’s been a really amazing way to connect with people locally.”
For her geography class, Woolf had to create a Latin American-related project that involved Columbus. After a friend suggested that she check out the Columbus-area taco trucks, the taco truck food blog was born. McSweeney remembers Woolf’s passion for her class project.
“One of the things I find particularly interesting is that it took a person from England to champion local food in the way that she has,” McSweeney said. “I think it just shows that sometimes it’s hard for locals to understand just what they’ve got, and it takes an outsider to say ‘This is really something special going on here.'”
After one of Woolf’s taco truck events from the class garnered a 200-person turn-out, Woolf decided her love for food could be more than a hobby.
“I’ve always chosen to do the things that I’m passionate about and interested in and, kind of, let the rest work out,” Woolf said. “I guess I’m an idealist.”
Columbus Food Adventures has been in business for a more than a year. Woolf leads groups of food enthusiasts around German Village and Short North Food Tours, an Alt Eats Tour that features ethnic foods, an All Dessert Food Tour and the Taco Truck Tour. The German Village and Short North adventures are walking tours, while the rest are van-based. Tickets for the tours, which last three to four hours, range from $50-$60.
Woolf, 36, no longer rows due to back pain, but she still prefers to exercise outside, biking or swimming. She also writes a column for Crave magazine about street food and is featured on a local radio show called Foodcast on Saturdays at 2 p.m. on 90.5 FM, WCBE.
Tourists aren’t the only people benefitting from Woolf’s passion for food. Spencer Budros of Pistacia Vera, a featured bakery on the All Desserts Tour, said he is thankful for what Woolf has done in the community.
“What’s special about the tours is it’s a great way to be exposed, not only to different restaurants, but to different neighborhoods in Columbus,” Budros said.
Woolf’s favorite campus area restaurants are Fito’s for Peruvian rotisserie chicken, Yau’s Asian Bistro for salty spicy squid and El Manantial Latino, the Colombian taco truck at the corner of Lane Avenue and High Street.
The future of Columbus Food Adventures is as uncertain as the location of Woolf’s next meal.
“I don’t know if I’ll do it forever,” Woolf said. “If you look at my track record, it’s unlikely.”