Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 18, 2005

HL native given top chef spot

By Teresa Jagodzinski

“I can’t cook at home. The pans are small, there’s only one oven, and I can’t walk into my refrigerator!”

This isn’t the usual excuse people give who don’t like to cook at home, but it’s the reason master chef Angie Barth uses.

Barth, a Howard Lake native, was recently named the executive chef at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC).

And to her, it’s like a different world cooking at home as compared to her job.

“We have five walk-in coolers and two walk-in freezers at work,” Barth explained. “Each of them is bigger than my entire kitchen at home.”

Barth began working at DECC in August of 1998 as a sous chef under executive chef Paul Madsen.

She considers Madsen to be her mentor.

“He and I got along immediately,” Barth explained. “ He took me under his wing and has been guiding me on the ways of catering right up until today.”

Madsen will retire in December, and that’s when Barth will take over the position.

The DECC provides food for a variety of events that take place at the center throughout the year.

It caters backstage for concerts, serves up an extensive deli menu for the yearly home show and sport show, cooks thousands of pounds of spaghetti for Grandma’s Marathon, and has a New Year’s Eve celebration hosted by St. Mary’s Hospital of Duluth; along with doing conventions, weddings, and class reunions.

“Being a chef in a catering operation such as the DECC seems to suit me well,” Barth said. “It’s constantly changing since we are event-driven, meaning that we work when there is an event, and we adapt to each event according to its own special needs and requirements.”

“In this ever-changing environment, I never get bored or frustrated by monotony,” she added.

The fun and challenge for Barth is coordinating multiple meals to go out at the same time. She has to figure in equipment, cooking time, oven space, and when to dish up a meal so that it doesn’t sit too long in a hot cart before being served.

“It’s not odd for me to cook 45 pounds of wild rice at a time, or have 80 pounds of baby red potatoes roasting in the oven, or 130 pounds of New York strip slow cooking,” she explained.

The executive chef position brings her more responsibility than she had as a sous chef.

Both positions are in charge of relatively the same staff, and both positions require her to be a manager, as well as a hands-on cook.

“I have a cooking crew of seven part-time employees,” Barth said. “We do everything from breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

“Some events require a full day of all three meals, while others may only be for one or two,” she explained.

She works extremely varied hours, depending on what events are being conducted at the center.

“Days can be as short as six hours or as long as 16-plus,” she added.

Her days off are when there are no events that call for food, which is most often Sunday and Monday.

“It’s kind of a crazy business, and I think it takes a special breed, in a weird kind of way, to appreciate and embrace the lifestyle,” she commented.

Barth, the daughter of Dale and Renee Barth of Howard Lake, graduated in 1983 from Delano High School.

She has numerous relatives in the Howard Lake and Cokato area, including six brothers and sisters: Chris Barth (Deanna), Jeff Barth (Britta), Scott Barth (Cindy), Michelle Miller, (Dan), Sue LaBelle (Jim), and a brother, Brad, who passed away in 1987.

Her background

Barth served six years in Army Intelligence as a non-communication radar interceptor.

“I intercepted signals from weapon systems, like SCUD missiles,” she explained.

After the Army, she went to the Columbus College of Art and Design and majored in fine arts.

She took a job at the Juvenile Detention Center in Columbus doing cooking, serving, dishwashing, and delivering snacks to cells.

“It was a tough environment, and when I got a tray of food thrown at my head, I called it quits,” she explained.

A month after being hired by the Athletic Club of Columbus as a dishwasher, she was promoted to pantry cook.

“I learned many culinary skills under the watchful eye of executive chef Siegbert Allespach, a native of Germany, who also studied in Switzerland,” Barth added.

She moved back to Minnesota and settled in Duluth, working for three and a half years at the Holiday Inn in Duluth before she was hired as a sous chef at the DECC.

She’s very excited to be the next executive chef at the DECC.

“I look forward to the opportunity to lead and teach and learn,” she added.

Along with being an accomplished chef, she is also an accomplished artist and poet.

She has a published book of poetry called “Title Page,” available at the Art Dock in Duluth or online at www.trafford.com.

Her paintings are on display in the DECC business office conference room.

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