Once a year at 3 a.m. or so, John Loose works in the kitchen at Fisher-Titus Medical Center, cooking turkeys for strangers.
He starts so early so that by 10:30, the cooked birds are bound for Norwalk Catholic School, where a crowd awaits their Thanksgiving meal.
He fixes the turkeys as part of a team that cooks, welcomes people and delivers Thanksgiving meals to homebound seniors or anyone without a place to go.
He doesn't mind working so early; the chance to provide turkeys for those in need of fellowship and fare is an example of why he enjoys working in the food industry.
"Part of what I like about this work is helping others," said the fast-talking, affable head of Fisher-Titus Medical Center's dietary department.
He enjoys the cooking aspect as well.
"I'm talented with the fork," he said. "I like to eat so I have to like to cook."
It is something Loose has been doing since his youth, when he and his sister competed in informal cake-baking contests.
Who usually won?
"That was kind of a toss up," Loose said.
As a college student, Loose cooked for himself and dorm mates. He prepared foods such as tacos, spaghetti, pot roast, stuffed chicken and shrimp brochette.
"They about fell over," Loose said, adding shrimp brochette was pretty upscale for college.
Loose's goal in life was not to work in the food industry.
"I sort of stumbled into it," he said.
Loose had always excelled in science and majored in wildlife biology and pre-vet medicine.
But with a recession in place by the time he graduated, few jobs were available.
He found a food services opportunity at Cedar Point and took it.
His job included designing the amusement park's food service facilities, overseeing a budget and recruiting employees.
Loose also oversees finances at Fisher-Titus, where he has worked for 19 years. But, he does more than sit behind a desk and crunch numbers. You might find him cooking, or bringing in a hospital staff favorite sweet potato casserole, this week's featured dish.
"It's a recipe often requested by the staff here," Loose said.
He makes it at home for his family's Thanksgiving meal and will bring it in for Fisher-Titus' Christmas party.
What makes the casserole good?
"It's the combination of the ingredients," Loose said. "You get the spices, the sweetness and the potato itself."