In Search Of…The Coolest Lunch Lady in Town!

LA CROSSE, Wis. – Jeff Koby doesn’t really fit the bill of your typical cafeteria lunch lady and he kind of likes it that way. “My best friend calls me kitchen man. ‘Hey what’s up Kitchen man.”

Koby hasn’t always dabbled in kid cuisine. The former telephone and computer guy actually woke up one day back in 2004 frustrated with his professional life. “After 20 some years of work, I decided that was enough. Work is not all that it’s cranked up to be. So I was gonna stay home. I was done. I wasn’t going to do anything anymore. My wife came home one day and I was crying to ‘Lifetime’ and she said, ‘it’s time to get a job.'”

That’s when the fates of the food world aligned. “Central was hiring someone just to serve pizza. 2 hours a day and I thought, I can do that.” Two hours eventually turned into a full time job in the kitchen of Emerson elementary and you can bet he’s been a very charismatic addition. Emerson Elementary principal Regina Siegel says, “ever since Jeff Koby has come to Emerson, we have had a whole new environment in our lunchroom. He’s hilarious. He’s very smart. He’s engaging with the children. He makes it fun to come to lunch.”

“You want to make lunch enjoyable for the kids. Really, you’ve got to move as fast as you can and you’ve got to treat those kids like they’re your customers. This is the hardest work I’ve ever done. So you have to bring your ‘A’ game everyday.”

He takes pride in his work and doesn’t really care what anyone else thinks. “You know what, they can say anything they want because I’ve never gotten up in the morning and said, ‘I don’t want to go to work today.’ I just don’t say that.”

“He’s always positive,” says Siegel. “You can ask him what he’s doing that day and if it’s wild and crazy and a new food has been introduced, he’ll say, ‘it’s the best day ever.”

“Life is good! I hear more ‘thank you’s’ on any given day then I’ve ever heard in the 20 years from business customers. My day is tremendous. I can’t think of the last bad day I’ve had.”

They come to school to learn, to be taught about the important things in life. Who knew one of the best lessons would come from the guy serving up smiles in the lunchroom.

“I love this job. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever loved in my life. My grand kids say they want to be lunch ladies when they grow up so I must be doing something right!”