Salvation Army’s soup kitchen — and its chef — provided a Thanksgiving meal in addition to the normal lunches.
MEET YOUR CHEF: Rollin ‘Bart’ Barto
At 85, Rollin “Bart” Barto is enjoying the hardest job he’s had and puts his creatively to use cooking for Dover Salvation Army’s soup kitchen.
He took a few minutes Nov. 24 away from preparing the upcoming Thanksgiving meal to give a look into his kitchen.
Q How does your job work at the soup kitchen?
A I’m chef in charge of the kitchen, the soup kitchen. We serve lunch Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.
Q So what brought you to work at the Salvation Army?
A I’m retired, but I can’t retire. I’ll work until I can’t work.
Q You said you work at the soup kitchen part time. Do you have any other hobbies?
A No, I don’t do too much now. I’m 85 years old. I just thought of that the other day and I thought, “Oh my god, I can’t believe it.” I was in the service 23 years. I’m out 35. Aye yai yai.
Q Is there anything in particular that’s different from working in a soup kitchen compared to another type of kitchen?
A This is one of the more difficult jobs I’ve had because I never have what I need. I’ll have lettuce, no tomatoes; tomatoes, no lettuce; eggs, no flour. You have flour, no milk. If we could ever get the damn thing together, it’d be great. It’s very difficult. You have to be really creative.
Q You said you have to be creative, does that mean finding substitutes or just making something else?
A I never know what I’m going to cook. Yesterday, all of the sudden, since I’ve been here — I’ve been here going on five years — they brought me 23-dozen duck and chicken eggs. No one ever brought me eggs before, and if I have eggs then I don’t have butter to make cakes and pies. It’s crazy, but I guess that’s what attracts me to it, it’s crazy. You’re not bored.
Q Do you also have to think more about costs than you would normally?
A No, I don’t worry about costs. I don’t understand how they handle it because we get donations, we get grants and we get government issue. I don’t know how they handle the bookkeeping. No one ever told me to worry, but I don’t go wild.
Q Do you have any kind of training as a chef?
A Oh yes, I’m a retired chef and baker. I used to work out in [Las] Vegas. I lived in Vegas for 12 years.
I’m retired military, too. I retired in 1941 from the Army and then I went and took training as chef and I’ve been working ever since.
I’m originally from Virginia. I settled here, a friend of mine, I’ve known him 35 years, [was here] and I wanted to retire. And I like Delaware, I didn’t care for Vegas. I went out there because of my wife. She thought she had arthritis and it was bone cancer. But I grew to like Vegas well enough; I did a lot of work out there, catering.
Q Does it help that you know how to bake as well as cook?
A Yes. They get very good food here because I can create all this stuff.
I make sure it’s right. If I won’t eat it, I will not serve it, and I’m particular with food.
Q As you cook in the kitchen and serve the food, and do you get to know the people who come to eat and?
A It’s regulars and also just off the street. I see an awful lot off the street right now.
Q Has the number of people increased with the economy the way it is?
A Yes, in fact it’s been rough this year.
Q Who helps you in the kitchen?
A I have volunteers, good volunteers. We can always use good volunteers. They help me prep on Tuesday for the week.
The girls from Aetna, Aetna the big insurance outfit, to me they don’t seem to get enough recognition. There are 200 girls and every Tuesday and Thursday two different girls come up here and help serve, religiously. They’ve been doing it I think about three years, and they’ve excellent, every one of them is great. They closed the shop down at Blue Hen, and every one of them is working from home but they still come from home, all over the area. They’re well trained. They know exactly what to do. When they’re on the line, I can do tomorrow’s food. I don’t have to worry.
Email Jayne Gest at firstname.lastname@example.org