Restaurants and food service have played a role in nearly every aspect of Art Chin’s life — starting, well, even before he was born.
Chin — the founder and former owner of popular restaurants in downtown Dayton and in Tipp City who now cooks for elementary school students in his community — is our Daytonian of the Week. Here is his story, in his own words.
“My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950′s,” Chin said. "The first Chinese restaurant in Dayton, Chung Sun, was on the corner of Third and Ludlow in downtown Dayton, and the gentleman who owned the restaurant knew my dad’s family back in China. He helped bring my parents here to work and live.
“My family’s first restaurant, the Bamboo Gardens, opened in 1967 and was on Gettysburg Avenue, where I was washing dishes and waiting tables at age 13. We opened our next restaurant in 1977, the Ming Tree, located on North Main Street.”
Around that time, Chin graduated from the former Colonel White High School in Dayton and enrolled at Ohio University. He worked in pharmaceutical sales in North Carolina for awhile but soon returned home to Dayton to work with his family.
In the late 1980s, Chin’s family opened Chin’s Oriental Cafe on the corner of East Fifth and Jefferson streets at the gateway to the Oregon District. A decade later, in 1998, he opened Chin’s Ginger Grill in Tipp City. The downtown Dayton restaurant closed in 2003, and in 2010, Chin changed the name of his Tipp City restaurant to Greenfire Bistro.
“The Tipp City location came about because I was lucky enough to meet my wife, Carol, who was born and raised in Tipp,” Chin said.
After an initial attempt to sell the restaurant fizzled in 2019, Chin sold Greenfire Bistro in July 2020 to Rob Scott, who had worked alongside Chin as the restaurant’s sous chef. The restaurant at 965 W. Main St. just east of I-75 now operates as Greenfire Fresh, and Chin occasionally cooks in its kitchens.
But Chin wasn’t ready to retire completely.
“The cafeteria manager position at Broadway Elementary School in Tipp opened up, and it seemed a perfect job for a retired chef,” Chin said. “I really enjoy cooking for 2nd and 3rd graders. It’s very fulfilling.”
Here’s more from our Dayton.com Daytonian of the Week.
What’s a typical day for you now?
I’m up at 6:30 a.m. Coffee with Carol — we just celebrated our 29th anniversary. Off to school at 7:45 a.m.
Next is cooking for and serving 2nd and 3rd-graders until about 2:15 p.m. Before COVID-19, I started something called “Try It Tuesdays” where I created new items for the kids to try. It was a lot of fun for me, and I think the kids enjoyed it, too.
Home for some yard work or grocery trip, then dinner, some TV and a good book. Semi-retirement — YAY! Weekends and the occasional weeknight, I am sometimes found at Greenfire Fresh helping Chef Rob. Once in awhile I also do some off-site personal catering through Cooking with HeArt for up to 50 people.
What prompted you to stay and carve out a long restaurant career in Dayton and Tipp City?
Love of family.
What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge?
Most recent challenge was having to return to the Greenfire right after the COVID-19 shutdown until my lease was over at the end of June. It was hard to think that the Greenfire would simply close. Thank goodness the owner of the building was willing to work with Chef Rob and give the Greenfire Bistro new life as Greenfire Fresh.
What are your favorite places to eat and/or drink in the Dayton or Tipp City area?
Some of our favorite places to eat are La Catrina and Mojos Bar & Grille, both in Troy, and Amar India on Miller Lane.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is a good Kentucky Bourbon — and occasionally, I’ll have that bourbon at the Century Bar in downtown Dayton.
What inspires you most about the Dayton area?
Living in the crossroads of America, just being in middle America with kind, strong and real people.
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