Chuck France/University Relations

Paul Baker, or "Chez Paul" as his hat says, prepares an omelet for a loyal customer in Strong Hall. Baker, a retired community member, began working for KU Dining Services two years ago and, along with his coworkers, has developed a loyal following of omelet enthusiasts.

Omelets on the move

Retiree, KU Dining Services scramble up loyal breakfast fan base

Thanks to the omelet — that delectable egg dish that can be stuffed with nearly limitless fillings — Paul Baker is one of the busiest retirees around.

Baker, or “Chez Paul” as his chef’s hat says, makes omelets at mobile stations around campus four days a week. Baker and his omelet mentor and boss, Ron Wroczynski, manager of Grab & Go and Hawk Food Stops, have developed quite a following. The duo make omelets Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at Murphy Hall, Art and Design Building, Joseph R. Pearson and Strong Hall — in that order — and have a devoted band of customers who follow them from location to location.

Wroczynski decided to try an omelet station at the Art and Design Building a few years ago as a new dining option. It was open about once a month and grew in popularity.

“We decided to expand it and do a second location and that was Strong Hall,” Wroczynski said. “I decided at the end of one year to do it in four locations as something new for the students, faculty and staff.”

By 2009, the omelet station was popular enough that KU Dining Services needed to hire part-time help to assist the operation. Baker, a retired certified public accountant, volunteered at the Lied Center. He got to know Wroczynski, who handled concessions, and asked if he had any jobs available. It turned out he did.

“I showed up and he put me to work,” Baker said with a laugh. “Right now I’m living the dream. I’m making omelets in the morning and preparing tax returns in the afternoon.”

Baker had never cooked professionally before, but got lessons in the art of the omelet from Wroczynski.

“I’ve learned a lot about the food industry from being here,” Baker said. “Ron has it set up real well. All I do is talk to people and put in the ingredients.”

Baker often knows which ingredients his regular customers will ask for before they even get to the station. Many customers, especially staff and faculty, will follow the omelet station when it’s not set up in their building. Some have even sent out scouts to find out where they’d be set up in the early days of the service.

The omelet station’s success has inspired both breakfast conversation and family tradition. Baker has started making Sunday breakfast for his wife, their two daughters, two granddaughters and daughters’ friends. The weekly breakfasts are a great way to catch up on the news with the family and friends, Baker said. One friend even informed her boyfriend she won’t be making him Sunday breakfast any time soon, because she plans on eating Baker’s breakfast until she’s 90.

That type of devotion has popped up on campus for another of Wrocynski’s creations, the Wescoe Beach hot dog cart. The cart opened six years ago much like the omelet station. It was open about once a week and gained steadily in popularity. Baker now grills hot dogs with a crew over the lunch hour on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The cart has a devoted student following.

“I have students come up to me at the Lied Center and ask when the hot dog cart is coming back,” he said. “I’ll say ‘As soon as the snow melts.’ It’s something that will be on campus long after I’m gone. It’s all for the kids.”

That devotion to students and omelets will be taken to a new level come finals week. The station will be set up at midnight in Anschutz Library throughout the week. Baker and Wroczynski said they'll be there flipping omelets into the wee hours of the morning.

Between the omelets, hot dogs and paperwork of tax season, Baker has had plenty on his plate. He also ushers at basketball games and at the Lied Center. He doesn’t mind though, as he doesn’t consider his cooking gig work.

“I tell Ron I should be paying him,” Baker said.

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