Art Chin retired earlier this year after 45 years in the restaurant business, but he’s still busy cooking, now for the young customers of the Broadway Elementary School cafeteria.
Chin operated Chin’s in downtown Dayton followed by Chin’s Ginger Grill and then Greenfire Bistro in Tipp City during his more than four decades in the restaurant business. He sold the business this year to former employee and Tippecanoe High School graduate Adam Berning.
Although he left behind the long hours that go along with owning a restaurant, Chin said he wasn’t ready to stop work entirely.
When he saw an opening for cafeteria manager at Broadway school, he quickly applied.
“This job came along and it is the perfect job for an old cook like me. I still get to do a little cooking, obviously, but I get my weekends off, my summers off,” he said. “When you work as hard as I have and as many hours as I did a day, you are not going to lay around the house.”
His hiring this summer by the Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education brought an enthusiastic response from those at the meeting, and from Chin, who said he was excited for the opportunity to continue work in the community.
He filled an opening created with the retirement of Judy Dungan, long-time Broadway kitchen manager, said Gary Pfister, Tipp City schools’ director of services.
Chin is one of five kitchen managers in district buildings. The managers are responsible for developing the menu and preparing meals daily with assistance from other kitchen employees.
“They are all well versed in the USDA requirements and make sure each day’s menu meets those requirements and, most importantly, is a menu that the kids want to eat,” Pfister said.
Chin said the experienced managers have been a big help to him in learning about the regulations and adjusting to budgets available for meals.
“They have been a big help to me to transition from private industry to this,” he said.
“I am not cooking anything different than what anybody’s cooked over the years. I am just trying to incorporate more fresh vegetables, more fresh fruits, less frozen items.”
He also turned to his young customers, distributing a survey in the early days of the school year to get an idea of what vegetables interested students. The survey listed several and invited responses of “like,” “dislike” and “not sure.”
Tomatoes, corn, carrots and green beans drew the most positive responses.
Chin also visits with students daily in the lunchroom. “I go while they are eating. I treat them just like they were my customers at the restaurant. I don’t treat them any differently,” he said.
He hopes to educate the students a bit on foods and to also help increase the number of students who buy school lunches.
Chin said he enjoys the job so far and doesn’t miss the long hours at the restaurant.
“I miss my clients. A lot of them became my friends,” he said.
The school job also is a way for him to give back to the community and the schools, which his two daughters attended.
“This still gives me the opportunity to cook. I don’t get tired of cooking,” Chin said. “I have been doing it so long, I don’t know what else to do.”
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