Values in Action: Chef Steve & Stewardship

Chef Steve Plescha is not afraid to try something new. A highly ranked graduate from the Culinary Institute of America in 1977, he has been bringing his culinary innovations to Pennswood Village for the past 13 years.  Anyone who has dined there would have no doubt of his technical ability, but his passion cannot be quantified. After speaking with him for just a moment, Chef Steve’s passion for his work is evident – his robust sustainable fishing program is bolstered by his knowledge, local connections, and the support of the community in which he works.

To ensure the quality of the seafood he serves to residents, Chef Steve takes a number of things into consideration. While being mindful of habitat, the effects of weather, and trends, he works locally with Samuels and Son, a Philadelphia based restaurant-quality supplier. “They have someone on the boat telling me the quality of the fish, the conditions in which they were caught, and how many they brought in.”

He also uses the guidance of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and the Marine Stewardship Council to make educated decisions on what fish to buy. He looks for local, wild caught fish while staying mindful of the results of storms, industry issues and supporting sustainable fishing practices. He tends to favor local options like Blue Fish from Belmar and scallops from other points on the Jersey Shore.

Fish aren’t the only way that Chef Steve is bringing sustainability to Pennswood. He looks into “how they harvest and raise the chicken and beef we order.” Initially, when Chef Steve wanted to bring better quality chicken to Pennswood, suppliers wouldn’t bite. “The quantities we order weren’t large enough, but we worked with them and now we are able to offer antibiotic-free and free-range chicken to our residents.” Not only does he enjoy sharing the quality with residents, he knows it could be an attraction to future residents in a community where environment stewardship is a priority.

Chef Steve also pays attention to evolving industry trends. He is currently testing out popular techniques like Sous Vide, a cooking method where food is placed in a pouch or glass jar, and then placed in a water bath four hours to create a richer flavor. He is also experimenting with Impossible Burger, a new plant based beef alternative that “looks, tastes, and smells exactly like beef.” When asked how he’d use it he shared that he wouldn’t “want to cover it up, letting it to speak for itself,” to highlight the quality of the product.  What’s more—of the 17 new menu items that Chef Steve and his staff have come up with recently, 13 of them are plant based: some recent highlights include sweet potato chili and lentil bolognese. 

Chef Steve’s thoughtfulness and passion are impressive and obvious. His interest in sustainable, farm-to table protein sourcing, as well as his eye on future trends, are a boon to Pennswood Village. His work is always centered on whom he serves: his care for the Pennswood residents is evident in his thoughtful approach to feeding them.

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