Air Force veteran enjoys cooking, model cars

Cary Ashby • May 30, 2018 at 7:00 AM

MILAN — The kitchen is the domestic domain of Charlie Gross.

“I do all the cooking. I do all the grocery shopping,” said the Milan man, whose wife, Janis, is a retired nurse anesthesiologist. 

In addition to model cars, Gross enjoys cooking. When he’s ready to roll in the kitchen, he usually has 10 pounds of pre-cooked ground round, tomatoes, onions, peppers and pasta available.

“Everything else I get as I need it,” Gross said.

Ground round is one of the ingredients in his featured recipe, a poor boy sandwich. Since it only takes about 30 minutes to make, it’s something he can prepare at the last minute for unexpected company.

“It’s relatively simple, it’s inexpensive and it’s filling,” said Gross, who makes the sandwich about once a month. “My granddaughter loves them too.”

He’s not sure where the recipe originated; it could have been from his ex-wife or the time he spent oversees. In 1993, Gross retired from the U.S. Air Force after serving for 25 years.

“We spent 22 years overseas. We picked up a lot of this and lot of that from overseas,” he said. 

His job in the Air Force was being a rigger. Gross was responsible for getting equipment in and out of areas used for training exercises and what he called “real-world events.”

“I rigged parachutes, hooked them up to vehicles, cannons and equipment and air-dropped them out of airplanes,” he said. “I spent 250 days out of the year out in the field.”

The best food he said he makes is his mother’s recipe for macaroni and cheese, which is family requests the most.

“Everybody likes that recipe,” said Gross, who has three adult children and five grandchildren (two 18-year-olds, two 17-year-olds and a 10-year-old).

When asked what the secret is to a successful homemade mac-and-cheese, he said it’s quality products and the way you mix them.

“Nothing cheap,” he added.

For family get-togethers, Gross often brings the mac-and-cheese and/or coleslaw.

“That’s what everybody asks for,” he said.

His comfort food was an easy answer — his award-winning chili, which he has made for years. It has won several awards during the chili bake-off at the annual Fall Fun Fest at the Huron County Fairgrounds.

“I took two out of three (wins) there, judge’s favorite and hottest. I even took best overall,” Gross said.

His tip for other cooks is taking your time.

“Don’t get in a hurry. … It doesn’t pay to get in a hurry,” Gross said.


Poor boy sandwich


1 loaf French bread (trough out)

1 pound ground round

1 block cream cheese (per pound of meat)

Tomatoes (sliced)

Green peppers, onions (chopped)


In a large pan, brown the meat. Mix in the chopped onions and peppers. Melt in the cream cheese. Add tomatoes and sliced peppers. Cover with shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Bake at 110 degrees until melted.

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