NEGAUNEE - Peeling 50 pounds of potatoes might seem a daunting, unwelcome task to some.
But to Andrew Forbes, it is just part of a day's work as the Negaunee Senior Citizens Center chef, work that he loves.
The day The Mining Journal dropped by to visit Forbes, the center's new chef, he was getting ready to make shepherd's pie to serve about 80, which necessitated peeling and chopping a large quantity of potatoes which would then be cooked and mashed to make the topping of that traditional English entree.
Andrew Forbes, who is the chef at the Negaunee Senior Center, checks the progress of a dish that’s baking in a center oven. A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Forbes says he loves his work, which includes much interaction with the center’s seniors. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
The Terre Haute, Ind., native was ready for that task and the other duties he's taken over in the months he's worked at the center.
"I came to the Upper Peninsula to go to school at Northern (Michigan University). My girlfriend is up here, too," Forbes said. "I am a hospitality major. I have another year and a half or so to go until I get my degree."
Forbes was in search of a job when he heard about the opening at the Negaunee center.
"It has gone great so far," said Forbes of his new post. "I have had a few seniors ask me for some requests. Or I hear, 'by the way...' every now and again.
"The seniors are great to work with."
Every Wednesday, Forbes serves a homemade lunch special at the center. For example, May's Wednesday entrees are meatloaf, sweet and sour chicken, salisbury steak, ravioli and pork chops. The entrees are usually served with salad or vegetables, bread or a roll and dessert. Seniors pay $5.50 for dine-in or take-out while the general public pays $6.50 for the meal.
"Do I have a favorite to make? Well, I haven't done anything more than once yet," Forbes said.
The Wednesday meal is just part of what Forbes does at the center. He prepares snacks available for different activities at the center. He also will cater events at the center.
He keeps his main patrons - namely the seniors - in mind while cooking or baking.
"I try not to add a lot of salt. That's something we keep control of here," Forbes said. "I make sure each actual meal includes a vegetable, a meat, a starch, you know, all the food groups.
"And I enjoy making desserts," he said. "Everyone has to have dessert once in a while."
Forbes has had a great time with the seniors.
"They have been awesome," he said. "They tell me about themselves, what's going on with them. And they keep telling me I am doing a good job, which is really nice."
Something he's learned since he started work at the Negaunee Senior Center is what goes on at the facility.
"This is a great place," he said. "They have so much they do here. It is so much more than I expected. There is something going on all the time."
The center is thrilled to have Forbes, said its coordinator, Kristy Basolo.
"Andrew has been a tremendous asset to our staff," Basolo said. "He makes delicious food and is wonderful with our seniors. We couldn't ask for more."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.