Chef spices up Orchard Hills

Published 4:43 am Thursday, April 6, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The kitchen of the Orchard Hills County Club has been spiced up a bit for spring. The Mardi Gras - inspired items on the menu were a result of executive chef Mike Stephans' trip down South last March.
The dishes “are very flavorful and have a lot of different components,” Stephans said of the spicy Cajun dishes.
To feel the full experience of the bite of New Orleans, Stephans said he chowed on jambalaya and gumbo at Cajun-rich spots like Galatoire's Restaurant.
The interest grew while he trained at Washburne Culinary Academy in his hometown of Chicago, Stephans said. Many lessons were in French and Italian cuisine and they prepared him for his positions in the kitchens of some top notch Windy City hotels, such as the Ritz Carlton and the Swiss Hotel. Stephans graduated from the program in 1998, but said he actually started at the hotels while still in classes at the academy.
A large part of the job at the hotels was perfecting the process of holding a banquet, which Stephans said is often the case on a Saturday night at Orchard Hills.
From Chicago, Stephans said he headed to South Bend, Ind., where he helped start the culinary arts program at Ivy Tech Community College.
Stephans said the program originally started as an apprenticeship, where restaurants and country clubs would allow the 12 students to work in the kitchen while taking classes.
Once interest grew in the program, Stephans said he and other members of the American Culinary Federation decided to confront Ivy Tech and other colleges about constructing a permanent lab setting at the school.
One of the schools approached was Lake Michigan College. Stephans said he and the AFC proposed the idea while the construction of the Bertrand Crossing Campus was being planned, but the school showed little interest.
The question was then posed to Ivy Tech.
So, the small group of chefs held a few public enrichment classes on making soup and other dishes.
The courses were a success and Stephans said the culinary program at Ivy Tech had close to 150 students by the time he departed.
Stephans took over as executive chef at Orchard Hills last fall. He currently has a staff of two cooks and five servers, but said he will have to hire a few more hands for the summer months.
The current menu with the cajun bite will be available through the end of May, Stephans said.
Some of the southern favorites Stephans brought back from his trip to the bayou include a muffeletta sandwich, Po'Boys and deep dish pecan pie.