City chef keeps residents happy & healthy

by Dan Holland

For new Brecksville Food Operations Manager and Chef Chelsea Huizing, it’s all about keeping people happy and healthy.

Huizing, who began her new position just prior to Christmas, said her main duties at present consist of arranging and preparing the weekly Tuesday brunch and Thursday lunch menus for seniors served in the Human Services Department dining room. Other duties include food preparation for recreation department concessions and a number of city events.

Her prior position, as a chef at a popular downtown Cleveland restaurant, was interrupted when she learned of the opening with the city of Brecksville.

“It’s a good career – my last gig reminded me of how much I love food service, but I hate restaurant hours,” said Huizing. “I wasn’t really looking for this position, but when it came up, I thought it would be perfect for me. I’m very blessed to have found this job.”

The menu, which is posted on the Human Services Department webpage, varies from week to week.

“There’s a record of the old menus in The Brecksville Bulletin,” said Huizing. “I just ask people what they like and what they would like to see – I just want to keep people happy. I do as many things as I can fresh from scratch and stay away from frozen food, because when you have good food, you have happy people.”

A lunch held in late-January featured a menu of homemade Salisbury steak with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet-buttered peas, dinner roll and apple cobbler. Approximately 75 persons attended the dine-in event along with pick-up of 75 take-out orders.

“The brunches have been breaking records – we had almost 80 people recently, which is the most they’ve ever had,” said Huizing. “I also feed my staff of loyal volunteers, and if there’s anything left over, I take it to the police department or fire department.”

Brecksville resident John Nolan has been volunteering in the department for more than 15 years.

“I enjoy the company of people and I like being able to help others,” said Nolan. “The food is all made from scratch – it has not always been that way, but it is now. I peeled at least a half bushel of potatoes on Tuesday to prepare for this lunch today.”

“The new chef is really good and very outgoing and friendly,” added resident Jill Klein. “It’s just nice to get out and be with people and sit down to a good meal; it’s a social thing as well. The servings are very generous – you won’t find that in a restaurant at this cost, and the brunches are very good too.”

Fran Brink, of Parma, was visiting with a friend who lives in Brecksville. “This is such a nice thing that they do for their seniors; not every city does this,” she said. “The food is great, and I usually end up taking part of it home with the large servings. It’s all really good food, including the desserts.”

Amy Serpentini, of Brecksville, said she has attended the brunches for several years and just recently began attending lunches. “Especially since Chelsea has come here, the food has been excellent, and they have a nice menu that changes each week.”

“We are here to provide a community service for people; just focusing on having healthy food and healthy people in the community,” said Huizing. “My philosophy is, if the food is good, then you can worry about the important things in life. If people know they can come here and enjoy good food and good conversation, that’s one less thing to worry about.”

Meal costs are $6 for brunch and $7 for lunch. For information, visit or call 440-526-2499. ∞

On our cover (photo): Chelsea Huizing, the new food operations manager for the Brecksville Human Services Department, whips up a batch of homemade mashed potatoes for the city’s seniors as part of a menu featuring classic comfort foods. Photo by Dan Holland.