“I like to think of it as God’s house.”

IMG_5942When spending time with Oliver Hale (a.k.a. Chef O), one quickly comes to the conclusion that he has led an amazing life. He is 60 years young, and through his story you will find out he has filled his years with more “living” than several people his age combined. In his youth, he spent time in the kitchen with his mother cooking meals for his family while his friends played pick-up baseball and football in vacant lots in his childhood neighborhood. Fast forward 45 years to 2001, when he was awarded the USA Culinary Medal of Excellence and was named as one of the “Top 50 New Chefs in America” by the Culinary Arts Institute. In between these two closely-related events, he experienced two congestive heart failures and has been the recipient of two kidney transplants. As a TV personality, he hosted an energetic and engaging cooking show; he has been the National Spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation and will compete internationally in the Transplant Olympic Games in Africa this July.

As much as he has accomplished and as busy as he remains today, he still speaks highly of The Salvation Army and the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center where he is a member and works out regularly. “The Kroc Center is Grand Rapids’ best kept secret,” Chef O explains. “When you come here, you experience serenity. It’s in the air – and you can feel it the minute you walk through the front door,” he adds. Chef O uses a wide variety of exercise equipment at the Kroc Center, primarily to stay fit and to improve his cardio health. As much as he is motivated by the physical aspects of his Kroc membership, he is the first to mention that there is another factor in play, “I’m not only motivated by the physical stuff, but the spiritual aspect, as well. This is more than a gym – I like to think of it as God’s house.”