Susan Knox Wilson
When I asked Chef Michael how he got the job as Executive Chef of PebbleCreek’s Banquets and Catering, he laughed and said, “it’s all Mary’s fault!” He was referring to Mary Ahrens, Eagle’s Nest Executive Chef. “Chef Mary and I worked together in the kitchens at Cancer Treatment Center of America and we became good friends and are to this day,” shared Chef Michael. “Over the winter holidays, the Banquets and Catering Department was short-staffed and Mary asked if I could help out. She knew I was working for the Aqua Fria school system and had winter holiday time off, so it was hard for me to say ‘no’ to her. The part-time job turned into an offer to take over full-time and here I am.”
In addition to food management positions with the school district and Cancer Treatment Center, Chef Michael’s previous experience includes kitchen management jobs with Copper Canyon Golf Club and Courtyard by Marriott, where he won several employee recognition awards. Prior to his corporate experience, Chef Michael worked in his award-winning family-owned restaurant, Evelyn’s Villa, in West Warwick, Rhode Island. “My mother-in-law (Evelyn) was simply a fabulous cook,” Chef Michael sighed, “she taught me so much; how to cook, how to love food, how to love the business. I was so fortunate to have been able to work with her.”
Born and raised in Rhode Island, Chef Michael, relocated to Arizona ten years ago when he discovered living in Rhode Island in the winter was no longer fun. “My father-in-law was a snowbird out here and when my wife and I came out to visit, we fell in love with it. We go back to visit family every year – and to eat Rhode Island’s wonderful seafood, but living here makes more sense for us.”
“Being a chef is a tough business,” noted Chef Michael, “and it’s not for everyone, but I love food and I love cooking and it’s my life.” It’s not the easiest industry to get into, but it also isn’t impossible. If it was, there’d be no chefs or anyone working in this industry. Even if it means doing work experience at a local restaurant or checking out sites like Silven Recruitment regularly for job updates, this is a start to getting a career in the catering industry.
Over the years, Chef Michael has created hundreds of recipes, some of which have been published. “Rhode Island has the best seafood in the world,” he claims. “It’s one thing I really miss, but we’re able to re-create a lot of great seafood recipes here in Arizona and I like to incorporate seafood in my menus whenever I can.” How fortunate for us!
Chef Michael agreed to share one of his signature recipes, New England Crab Cakes. Can you spot his “secret ingredient?” Bon appetite!