Chef John Goehler, a member of the Kent State University food service staff for 32 years, is being remembered by friends and colleagues for his dedication to and enthusiasm for the students he cooked for and his craft.
Mr. Goehler, 59, died from a heart attack at his home Oct. 11, two days before he was to be named Chef of the Year by the Akron Canton Area Chefs Association of the American Culinary Federation. He was senior associate director of dining services and campus executive chef at Kent State.
Ken Bucholtz, president of the chefs association, said the banquet where the award was to be presented on Oct. 13 was bittersweet without Mr. Goehler, whose longtime friend, chef Ron Perkins, accepted the award on his behalf.
Mr. Goehler had been a member of the association for more than 25 years and was always “the first one with his hand up” to volunteer no matter what was needed, Bucholtz recalled. For many years, Mr. Goehler served as treasurer for the group.
Bucholtz said he nominated Mr. Goehler for the award because he had served for so many years and done so much for the organization with no accolades. “He was the silent giant in the back of the room,” he said.
Perkins said he met Mr. Goehler in 1978, hiring him to cook at Portage Country Club. Mr. Goehler had just returned from serving in the U.S. Navy. Perkins said the thing he will remember most about his friend was his willingness to do whatever needed to be done and his gung-ho attitude.
In 1980, the pair spent three months working at the Olympic Village in Lake Placid, N.Y., cooking for athletes, their families, kings, queens, heads of state and a multitude of guests. Both had been hired by food service companies providing meals at the games.
The pair was able to watch the U.S. men’s hockey team defeat the Russians in the game that came to be known as the “Miracle on Ice.” They fed the team after the gold medal game, Perkins recalled. Due to security at the time, the athletes’ families were not permitted in the Olympic Village, so the chefs arranged for the team and their families to come to the place where the chefs were being housed in a converted TB clinic. The building had a large kitchen and dining room, and the chefs fixed hot dogs, hamburgers and other all-American fare for the team party.
Perkins said Mr. Goehler was always willing to cook when needed, each Thanksgiving helping to prepare dinners for Akron’s OPEN M mission. “He cooked about 1,800 dinners every year. One year, it was 2,300,” he said.
He was a prolific volunteer, making breakfast for crews at Habitat for Humanity houses, and working every year since the late 1970s with the Team Cuisine workshops for high school culinary students, Perkins said.
Richard Roldan, dining services director for KSU, who worked alongside Mr. Goehler and shared an office with him, said he will remember Mr. Goehler’s enthusiasm for his work.
“He was a ball of fire regarding anything you did,” Roldan said. “He was very involved with the students on campus.” Mr. Goehler was the adviser for Kent State’s Ice Carving Club.
Roldan said Mr. Goehler always made an effort to reach out to vegan and vegetarian students to make sure that university menus had plenty to offer them. He would meet with students at least once a month, sometimes performing cooking demonstrations. “He was always cooking and learning new recipes and things to add to dining on campus,” Roldan said.
Roldan and Mr. Goehler had just been on a trip to New Jersey and Pennsylvania to investigate developing a university-owned food truck for the campus, returning the day before Mr. Goehler died.
A Tallmadge resident, Mr. Goehler was a graduate of St. Vincent High School and attended the University of Akron. He is survived by his wife, Connie, and sons, Grant and Chad.
Calling hours for Mr. Goehler are 4 to 8 p.m. today at the Donovan Funeral Home in Tallmadge, where a memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The family has asked that memorial tributes take the form of donations to OPEN M in Akron.