HAGERSTOWN, MD. -- Ken Kern has cooked for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Elizabeth Taylor, planned lavish White House parties for three presidents and orchestrated a feast for 55,000 at a religious crusade in New York City.
But this man, who has made his living as a gourmet chef and caterer for 40 years, has simple tastes. At the end the day, Kern said, haute cuisine does not tickle his taste buds.
His favorite food? "A bologna sandwich," said the 67-year-old Pittsburgh native who for several months has taken over kitchen duties at the Beaver Creek Country Club in Washington County. He formerly worked as chef at Frederick's Eagle Head Country Club.
Kern's career began during World War II. Although he had no cooking experience when he went into the Navy, Kern was assigned to kitchen duty on an aircraft carrier.
"I picked it up so quick and easy, I stayed with it," he said.
Kern's superiors recognized his budding culinary skills and sent the young sailor to cooking schools in Michigan and New Jersey. Kern said those Navy schools laid the foundation for a career that has taken him into kitchens across the United States and Europe.
After the war, Kern spent some time traveling around Europe working alongside experienced chefs. He eventually returned to his Pennsylvania home town where he operated one of the largest catering services in the city, which fed some of the largest men in the city -- the Steelers.
One of his fondest memories from Pittsburgh was a gala party he catered in 1963 after a performance by the late Jack Benny. He also catered a party for 1,500 given by Elizabeth Taylor while she was married to Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.).
Kern said he did most of his traveling while he was employed for about a dozen years as executive chef with Marriott Corp. His job entailed setting up kitchens at businesses, industries, universities and hospitals around the United States.
While with Marriott, Kern had the chance to arrange parties for Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.
His scrapbooks include pictures from Nixon's 1972 inaugural ball at the National Press Club, which featured an ice sculpture by Kern of an elephant.
Although he's not thinking of retiring, Kern said he was enjoying a slower pace working at the country club and catering private parties.
Kern said he also enjoyed teaching classes at the country club, where he tried to instill in his students that simplicity is the recipe for success in the kitchen. His favorite seasonings: salt and white pepper.