The oil sizzles and pops in the pan. The students begin to line up. And the man behind the counter smiles and asks, “What can I get you?” This man is Chef Aaron, KU’s newest culinary artist.
Chef Aaron, also known as Aaron Jablin, took over the dinner shift in the Cub Café in the McFarland Student Union Building following the departure of Chef Jeff, who left to cook at a retirement home this past December.
Jablin graduated from Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts in November, 2011.
“I originally went to University of Massachusetts Amherst because it had a small, open curriculum,” Jablin said during an interview in the Cub Café. “I took courses in math, english and music, thinking I would be a teacher.”
Finding that he would get bored after a while, Jablin decided to take a culinary course where he ultimately found his passion. He then transfered schools in order to focus on cooking.
Following graduation, Jablin found out about the KU position at a job fair.
“It’s really not an exciting story,” Jablin joked. “They called me, and I met Scott [the manager of the Cub Café], and I got the job.”
Only four weeks into the job, Jablin already has plans to cut his menu down in order to better accommodate the student body. He has been toying with the idea of putting out comment cards for students to voluntarily fill out, but says he may need the universities permission first. He’s also been paying close attention to what people have been lining up for.
“My plan for the semester is to serve something new every day,” Jablin said. “That way I can see what people like and don’t like.” Next semester, Jablin plans to take this into consideration in order to create a more concrete menu.
Jablin said that his top priority is his food. His second priority is the student.
“If I make the food my top priority, the students will be satisfied,” Jablin said. “So if the food is the top priority, the second priority will be taken care of.”
Jablin also assures that, for the most part, his recipes are made from fresh ingredients.
“If I’m serving egg rolls that night, I can’t hand roll two hundred egg rolls,” Jablin said with a smile. “But I always use fresh vegetables and the sauces are all made from scratch. I use very few shortcuts.”
In his off time, Jablin is a tutor, helping third and fourth graders with math as well as seventh and eighth graders with english. He says that, had he not pursued cooking, he would either have been a teacher or a lawyer.
“I like to help people, and I like to argue,” Jablin joked.
As for the future, Jablin said nothing is set in stone.
“So far, I really enjoy working here,” Jablin said. “My favorite part is the 4 [p.m.] to 7 [p.m.] rush. Other than that, I just cook and taste the food.”
Jablin has considered either owning or managing his own restaurant in the future. But for now, he’ll be at KU, Monday through Friday, ready to serve the students.
By Mark Rotondo