New chef cooks up interest in LaGrange Park
Chef Michael Greib fills the fillo dough with the spinach and feta cheese mixture while making spanokopita on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2012 at Plymouth Place Senior Living in La Grange Park. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Name: Michael Grieb
Employer: Sodexo Food Services
Location: Plymouth Place
Serves: 350 residents in seven dining areas
Staff: 12 cooks and 12 kitchen utility workers
Updated: October 14, 2012 12:10PM
LAGRANGE PARK – Chef Michael Grieb began working at Plymouth Place just over two months ago, and his strategy of “to the minute” cooking have made him hit.
“We try to make the food as close to the point that someone is going to eat it as possible. That’s a big push that I have on my cooks everyday. We’re always trying to do recipes in smaller batches so it’s fresher,” said Grieb. “It’s more work, but with better results.”
There is a bistro open to residents at breakfast and lunch.
“We have a lot of grab and go items available at breakfast,” he said.
At lunch, there re sandwiches, entrée salads and side salads made to order. There is at least one special of the day. For dinner, there is the option of at least two entree specials, as well as an “always available menu” if residents don’t want the entrée.
The staff also makes full meals that are delivered to the assisted living residents.
Grieb estimates there are anywhere from 70-80 special events the kitchen provides food for each month. These may be as small as coffee, tea and cookies for a 10-person group meeting, or as big as a dessert and champagne hour for 175 people.
This month, as part of a facility-wide program known as the Cruise Around the World, Plymouth Place residents are celebrating Greece. The program brings country-themed activities and decorations to residents. So far, they have visited England and France. Next month will focus on Italy.
“Friday is our big cruise dinner,” said Grieb. “We have one night for every country where have a special meal and serve lots of food from that country.”
Grieb recently gave a cooking demonstration of spanakopita, better known as spinach pie. He demonstrated making small, triangular sized pieces that could be served as an appetizer or side dish. Recipes were also available for residents that wanted to make it themselves.
“All of our residents that are in the independent living portion of the facility do have their own full kitchen, and a lot of them entertain,” said Allyson Zak, director of development at Plymouth Place.
“They may not always be making full meals because they are served dinner in the dining hall, but often they will invite two to three couples over for a cocktail hour, and they’ll make appetizers.”
Kit Halberstadt, a 12-year resident, was at the demonstration.
“It was very good. I’ve had it before and I’ve made it before,” said Halberstadt. “You can make a big pie but the appetizers are more fun.”
Halberstadt also said the kitchen makes one of her favorite dishes, a Hungarian dish called chicken paprikash.
“Chef Grieb is a delight and everyone seems to really love being around him,” said Zak. “He seems to connect very well with people and his food is delicious.”
Grieb says he loves his job even though he’s never had a “normal day” working in food service.
“On any given day, I can find out that strawberries didn’t come in on my order because it’s a rough time of year for strawberries and there’s none to be had,” said Grieb.
“Every meal is special and has to be a step up from what they’re used to. The bar is constantly getting raised.”