Music and cuisine

Published 9:23 am Monday, August 16, 2010

Green Mill General Manager Dan Hanson hand-tosses a pizza at the restaurant on Sunday. He has been in the restaurant business for about 30 years. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

General manager at Green Mill is a chef and a musician

The general manager at Green Mill in Albert Lea has had a long career in the restaurant business before starting his current job last December.

Dan Hanson, 50, is originally from Chatfield but has worked around the U.S. and even in Australia before settling in Albert Lea. He also originally wanted to be a musician and was professionally for a few years in the ’80s.

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“It’s not a very steady kind of job,” Hanson said.

Green Mill General Manager Dan Hanson poses for a photo by the take-out registers. He has been working at Green Mill since last December. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Hanson played piano and keyboard professionally from 1980 to 1985, most of that time with a band called Natia. In between music gigs, Hanson worked at restaurants, something he was good at doing.

Soon his work took the most of his time, and music became more of a hobby. He started as a cook at a hotel in Arizona and moved up from that position. He soon became the executive sous-chef at a Sheraton Hotel in Phoenix.

“I wanted my own kitchen, but they didn’t have a position available,” Hanson said.

He then worked as an executive chef at a restaurant in Los Angeles, where he said he was “discovered.” He then worked for a company called Red Onion, which asked him to help them open a chain of Mexican restaurants in Australia.

“The food was well-received,” Hanson said.

He worked in Australia for about a year, then moved back to the states in 1990 to go into business with his father and brother. His family were ranchers and wanted to start a restaurant in addition to their wholesale selling of cattle. They opened a restaurant in Preston, as well as another in Wabasha.

Green Mill General Manager Dan Hanson hand-tosses a pizza at the restaurant on Sunday. He has been in the restaurant business for about 30 years. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Soon after going into business with his family he wanted to get into cooking again. He called his contacts in Phoenix, who told him there were positions open in Florida and Tennessee. He chose the Sheraton Hotel in Jacksonville, Fla., and was an executive chef at the restaurant there, which fed about 1,000 people a day. The hotel ownership changed hands, and Hanson decided to start his own business.

Hanson owned Chef Works, a restaurant consulting business, for about 11 years while he was living in Florida. He consulted at restaurants throughout the United States. Hanson trained staff, marketed individual restaurants and did anything he could to make independent restaurants more profitable.

“There was always cleanup involved,” Hanson said.

Because his parents were still living in Minnesota, Hanson had to travel home frequently. He and his family decided to move back to Minnesota to be closer to their family. He first purchased a small bakery in Winnebago in 2007, which he converted into a restaurant and then sold.

He had purchased a home in Albert Lea in 2005 because it was convenient with his work and family.

“The town has a lot going for it,” Hanson said.

He also said he likes that Albert Lea has lakes and is close enough to the large metropolis of the Twin Cities. Shortly after selling his restaurant in Winnebago, he was contacted by the owners of Green Mill and asked to work as the general manager, which he has been doing since last December.

As for his music, Hanson said it’s something he wishes he could do more often. He said he was raised in a musical family, and he plans to keep playing. He said he’s liked being a musician and chef and both have had their advantages.

“I’ve been really fortunate,” Hanson said. “It’s been a fun career.”