Grade A Cafe

Chef Nate Lockhart serves graphic designer Doug Richter.

Every day hundreds of hungry students enter MCCC’s Grade A Café.

But do they know the man behind the scenes — the chef who creates the menus and prepares the food?

His name is Chef Nate Lockhart, and he has been at MCCC for three years.

He is the kitchen manager for Kosch Foods and has recently added responsiblity for the catering business.

Since he was 18 years old, he has been employed in a restaurant managerial position.

Chef Nate obtained an Associate’s Degree from Pennsylvania Institution of Culinary Arts.

“I saw this infomercial for a culinary school and I thought, ya know what, I’ll give it a shot. I gave em’ a call and a week later I was driving out there to fill out financial aid paperwork.”

Upon graduating, Chef Nate dabbled as a manager at several different places and along the way developed his own management style.

“I’m always up front with things,” he said. “I would say I’m laid back and open, there’s a time and place and a job has to be done.”

Chef Nate said that he respects his workers, which in turn, is why he gets respect back.

Several of his current employees said they enjoy their job mainly because of his management style.

“He’s here 4 a.m. – 6 p.m., every day, so he’s extremely motivated, reliable, and dependable,” said employee Nikki Roach. “He’s the best boss I’ve ever had and that says a lot.”

Chef Nate said that he learned what managerial styles he liked and didn’t like during to his various work experiences.

When he worked for Granite City Food and Brewery in Maumee, Ohio, he was working 8090 house per week.

“At least once a week I slept in a bar-booth because it was safer for me to do that than to drive an hour home to sleep for an hour, then drive back,” he said.

Chef Nate said he enjoyed his time working for Granite City until his priorities had changed.

“The actual environment at the end was so toxic to me; I was an A-hole at work and an A-hole at home.”  “I truly realized I was a workaholic, and when I reached that point in my life when my family became more important to me than my passion and my job,” he said.

So, Chef Nate ventured out to find a job that was fit for a family.

When he first heard about a place hiring for chef manager offering five days a week, with convenient hours, he couldn’t believe it.

“I thought it was probably some ma and pop place,” he said. “So I called and talked to Jerry, my boss now, and he told me about it, and I laughed at him on the phone.”

Chef Nate said that working at MCCC has made it possible for him to be a father and a husband.

When Chef Nate was younger, he said his dream was just like any young and aspiring cook; he wanted to own a restaurant.

He now has no desire to own his own restaurant but is considering the possibility of a small catering business. 

“I’m one of those few people that has known what they’ve wanted to do and God has blessed me to be able to do that,” he said. “If what you do ain’t fun, then don’t do it — if you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, you’re in the wrong business. You gotta be a little crazy, too.”

Chef Nate said that he knew he wanted to cook since he was a child.

“The first thing I ever cooked, I was just barely old enough to reach the stove,” he said. “I got a pot out, put it on the stove, nothing in it, and turned it on, let it get nice and hot, carried it into our living room and set it on our carpet.”

Chef Nate said that he likes the idea of creating something from nothing and testing it out on others.

“I love to create things and I love the interaction I get with people — in this field you meet all kinds of people,” he said.

Chef Nate said one of his favorite dishes to make is soup, especially cheeseburger soup.

“Somebody asked me for the recipe the other day and I said a,
‘a thousand bucks,’ ” he said. Chef Nate said hardly ever uses recipes. “Almost 99 percent of the times I’ve used a recipe, it’s been an epic failure,” he said.

He even said he’s lost jobs due to the fact he doesn’t have a specific cooking style. In one job interview he was asked what his cooking style was.

“If Larry the Cable Guy and Chef Gordon Ramsey had a kid, I would be it,” he said.

However, Chef Nate said he’s never been inspired to be anyone else.

“I am whoever I am, good or bad,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to aspire to be another person.”

MCCC students said that it’s not just Chef Nate’s work ethic, but his personality that enables him to succeed and have such an impact.

Student Heaven Wuest said it’s due to his kind and caring personality.

“When I was in middle college, I had a lot of home issues at the time. I was moving from friends to friends and money wasn’t really there. Nate always fed me though; he never let me go hungry,” she said. “Nate has a big heart and I know he would do this for anyone.”

Chef Nate said that every year he likes to take a couple middle college students under his wing.

One of those students was Nicholas Ridner.

“This kid, instead of spending money on himself, he’d buy somebody else something to eat,” he said. “So he didn’t pay for coffee or food his first year here, I knew he needed the help and I would tell people, Hey, this is my son,” he said.

Ridner said that he saw Chef Nate as a father figure after all he had done.

“I view him as a father figure in my life, so the appropriate action was to give him a card – he helped me a lot last year when I was in need,” Ridner said. “He is a caring guy who would help you with anything, he likes to sit down and have lunch sometimes and cares about what is going on in the student’s lives,” he said.

Not only is he passionate about helping students and cooking, but about his family and singing as well.

“I have four kids, so luckily I married a superhero,” he said.

Chef Nate said he couldn’t have succeeded without the support of his family.

He also said that his other passion besides his family and cooking is singing, whether for his church or for fun.

On Thursdays, he said he likes to go to Trapperz for karaoke.

Sometimes he mixes work with pleasure.

“Last May I won the Monroe big recital contest for Big Brothers, Big Sisters; I helped them raise some money. I catered and competed,” he said.