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Beef & Boards' Chef Odell Ward to Retire


A priority for Odell has been keeping the Beef & Boards buffet “interesting and fresh.”

Beef & Boards' Chef Odell Ward to Retire

When Odell Ward prepared for his interview at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre in 1983, he wanted to make a good impression.

So he shaved off his beard.

But when he arrived to meet with Chef Richard Kolic and his assistant, he was greeted by two bearded men!

It was then Odell realized he need only be himself, and all would work out just fine.

Thirty-eight years later, having been the executive chef for more than 30, Odell is preparing to retire from the dinner theatre that he says he "grew up and grew old" in.

And he'll be the first to tell you - he didn't anticipate staying for nearly four decades. He had opportunties elsewhere over the years, but he was happy to stay at Beef & Boards.

"It was something about Bob and Doug," he said about former owner Bob Zehr and his business partner and current owner Doug Stark. "They're personable. They care about your life. If you're in trouble, if they can help you in any way, they will."

"You don't find that at most places."

Prior to coming to Beef & Boards, Odell had worked some temp jobs after serving as an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force where he also "cooked off and on." As the executive chef at Beef & Boards, he has been responsible for cooking for hundreds of guests for each performance, Tuesday through Sunday, year-round. At his side has been Sam Arbabi, his assistant chef, who is also retiring this week after 30 years.

A priority for Odell has been keeping the Beef & Boards buffet "interesting and fresh."

"The joyful part was knowing most customers enjoyed it," he said.

Having to adjust to the changes that came with the pandemic was a particular challenge as he and his staff had to figure out the logistics of a plated service in a theatre that simply isn't set up for it. But he's proud of his staff and how they were all able to work together to make the adjustment.

Odell admits to doing some reminiscing the past few weeks. He recalled when Chef Kolic left and the top job was offered to him - and he quickly took it. "I thanked Doug the other day for that opportunity," Odell said.

For his part, Doug Stark, who now owns the theatre with his children, said Odell has been an important part of Beef & Boards' success.

"I never had to worry about the kitchen," Doug said. "We could concentrate on the shows because Odell was always there - he did everything."

Sometimes that even meant fixing some plumbing or completing other repairs, Doug noted.

"He will be greatly missed."

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