Associate Close-Up: Michael Paris, Executive Chef
We recently sat down with the Executive Chef at Collingswood to learn more about him and his passion for food and senior care and services. These are his words:
1Q: What is your name and job title?
1A: I’m Michael Paris the Executive Chef at Collingswood.*
2Q: Where did you grow up and where else have you lived?
2A: I grew up in Glassboro and attended college in Providence, Rhode Island. I now reside in Pitman.
3Q: How long have you been a chef?
3A: I’ve had a passion for and have been around food my entire life. At age 6, I requested a Fischer-Price kitchen and also owned an Easy Bake Oven. As a 10-year-old Boy Scout, I helped in the kitchen.
4Q: What kind of culinary training did you receive?
4A: I possess more than 19 years’ culinary training. I attended Johnson & Wales University and received a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management. Given the positive experience, I decided to continue there and secured a Master of Business Administration in Global Business Leadership and International Trade.
5Q: Prior to coming to UMC, what was your favorite on-the-job experience?
5A: I worked for Wegmans, Disney, county clubs and high end restaurants.
6Q: What do you like best about working in a senior retirement community?
6A: Although I was warned about senior living, I have found it rewarding and a place where food is front and center. This setting allows me to get to know residents. With five years in senior living, I plan to stay.
7Q: Describe your philosophy of dining.
7A: First, as a chef, you’re only as good as your last meal. Second, no fat equals no flavor and no fun.
8Q: Tell us about one of your culinary specialties.
8A: I don’t really have a particular specialty. I prefer to make whatever my guests like to eat. However, at home, I favor European cuisine, such as Italian, French and German.
9Q: How does dining/food service at your community relate to Abundant Life?
9A: Through Food Committee discussions, I welcome and gain knowledge of residents’ preferences and customs. I try to please the residents, which brings them abundant life. With widespread food availability, chefs have access to nearly everything with minimal impact to authenticity and seasonality.
10Q: Do the residents inspire you? Does one resident in particular stand out?
10A: Most certainly. Anna made bratwurst by hand while living in Germany. Another resident, Eileen, offers suggestions and hints, especially on spices.
11Q: What makes your community unique?
11 A: The family atmosphere. The small town commune where food is the center of life.
12Q: Tell us about a prominent memory of a grandparent or other older adult who had a strong influence on your life.
12A: My Italian grandmother loved to cook and I watched her intently. I cherish her butter cookie recipe. Regretfully, she passed away when I was just 12-years-old.
13Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
13A: I am a member of and volunteer as a Freemason. While a worldwide charity, we focus on services for child development and dyslexia, primary in South Jersey.
To further develop professionally, I attend conferences and utilize the insights and knowledge gained. Consistent with my food forward vision, it plays a vital role in bringing new, innovative culinary ideas to United Methodist Communities at Collingswood.
I also enjoy spending time with my two cats, Manny Mo and Jack, and anything outdoors or on the water.
14Q: What are you most grateful for in your life?
14A: The new experience and learning opportunities every day brings.
You can learn more about our dining philosophy and talented culinary associates here.
*Since this interview, Michael has been promoted to Director of Dining Services at Collingswood.